Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mount Everest, Pacific Ocean, Outer Space

If there's something human beings excel at it's messing up their environment. From offal to discards. Shards of pottery, arrowheads, skeletal remains and fossilized feces give tremendous instruction of the habits and lifestyles of early human habitants of this Planet. And, until civil authorities in ancient Rome hit upon the marvellous idea of constructing public aqueducts and
sanitation and sewage systems, humans truly fouled their nests.

Of course modern hygienic sanitation systems don't entirely solve the problems endemic to many societies of people littering their properties with discarded junk that some still see value in, to convert to other usable forms. We have so much that requires disposal, from daily kitchen waste to garbage of a far more durable and time-defying nature, not to mention all manner of electronic equipment.

There are no areas left on this globe without piles of garbage, reeking and rotting, creating toxic gases and decaying. The Himalays are littered with discarded oxygen tanks, with human waste. Even the most remote areas of the ocean have floating junkpiles of discarded plastics which will take their sweet time decaying.

And of course there is also Outer Space, where over the past half-Century, humankind has littered there as well.

It is estimated that garbage left from 4,600 space launches of one kind or another through space exploration have left millions of pieces of metal, plastic and glass pieces, whirling about purposelessly, caught in the maelstrom of attraction and repulsion, endlessly being split into smaller and smaller pieces. And these bits of space junk can return to Earth, can cause problems.

But they're more likely to cause problems for satellites or spacecraft or the International Space Station. In low Earth orbit debris that may circulate impacts at roughly ten kilometres per second (36,000 kilometres per hour), so try to imagine the clash of two moving objects at that quite unimaginable speed.

Which is what the current temporary occupants of the International Space Station, three Russian cosmonauts, two American astronauts and a Japanese astronaut were compelled to deal with when they were alerted to the trajectory of a high-speed object hurtling toward their orbiting lab. They evacuated to shelter themselves inside two Soyuz spacecraft, a mere 18 minutes before the object might have impacted.

As it happened, it passed and missed the ISS by 250 metres, and after having spent a half-hour of suspenseful waiting, the six individuals whose busy day was briefly interrupted resumed their places in the space station. This was an unusual, though not entirely rare happening. There have been previous collisions between space junk and discarded space parts.

And the warning is that it will only get worse. Roughly 16,000 objects larger than 10 centimetres across are regularly tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, NASA informs.

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Human Conquest

One never quite thinks of humanity in terms of military personnel. They are trained and taught to battle. To recognize their enemy and to make every effort to destroy that enemy's intention to win the conflict they are both engaged in. That may once have represented reality, but it no longer quite does at all times in all instances. For one thing, military combatants from enlightened, First World countries are generally people who have received a substantial education before enlisting.

As enlisted men and women their education is further advanced by exposure to a degree deemed appropriate to history, culture and what led up to the conflict they are dispatched to far from their own geographies. These are no longer wars of yore, when two adjoining countries met in battle to determine which of them would attain possession of contested land. Or where one ideological, political or tribal group would defeat the other, leaving one in thrall to the other.

These are interventions by democratic nations of the world, mostly under the auspices if not the direction, of the United Nations. The purpose being to offer protection to civilians, while attending the main objective, to ensure that combative oppressors be constrained in their violent bids for a military campaign of supremacy. In the process of which, civilian life is fraught with real danger. All the more so when the situation realizes the opposition of different cultures, ethnicities, religions.

So when, in Afghanistan, a Canadian officer was informed by their men that young rural Afghan boys were busy nearby their own stations, digging up unexploded ordnance, rusting mortars, bullets and bombs left over from the Red Army assault and occupation of Afghanistan, to offer them for sale to the Taliban insurgents, he merely shrugged and commented that "They have to make a living somehow".

Canada's presence in Afghanistan began as an invasion, a conflict, a mission to destroy the governance of the Taliban over the Afghan population. This was, of course, secondary to the primary purpose of removing the Taliban because of their solidarity with al-Qaeda, their refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden and his militias to the Americans whose intention was to bring him to justice for the atrocities of 9/11.

Having initially ousted the Taliban, the operation became one of temporary occupation, to install a civilian government of Afghan patriots (which didn't work out quite as anticipated since the government of Hamid Karzai brought war lords into the new Parliament, with blood on their hands, and riches from growing and selling opiates, and general corruption reigned supreme) and begin to help the country organize a governing infrastructure destroyed by decades of war.

Years of battling a spring-resurgent insurgency, IED deaths, building of schools and medical clinics gave way to a final withdrawal of foreign troops now in the near offing. As Canadian troops are finally withdrawn, a small number remain for the purpose of training the Afghan national police and the military. And those who work with Afghans to transfer technical knowledge and techniques see their counterparts in purely human terms.

Those who are adept because they have had the experience of receiving an education, are numerate and literate and readily adaptable. And those of an earlier generation incapable of reading or writing, and who are yet of a practical mindset, slower to learn, but willing enough. And those who formerly were teachers and even under the Taliban urged those whom they taught to think for themselves. Their despair at the large numbers of untaught Afghans whose experiences have dulled their brains and their initiative.

The quiet appreciation and slow but sincere companionship to be realized as communication takes place between human beings, not necessarily Canadians and Afghans, but people who speak of and compare the differences between their backgrounds, their culture, their social circumstances and their personal lives. A stone-age society under religious constraints as compared to a modern, 21st-Century, technically-advanced democracy.

The process which brought one foreign country's troops to another country's geography results on occasion with the bridging of gaps in our common humanity.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All is Sweetness and Light

The United Nations has deplored the Islamic Republic of Iran's intransigence on its illegal work in obviously working toward success in developing nuclear armaments. Iran has repeatedly denied its intention is geared toward that end, but it is more than evident to nuclear inspectors that this is the direction they're headed toward purposefully.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stood before the General Assembly of the United Nations and issued a threat against another member-state, and no censure has emanated from the United Nations as a result. Iran remains a member in good standing of the United Nations, despite its refusal to permit the IAEA inspection of its nuclear sites, themselves illegal.

Iran is well recognized as being a sponsor of terrorist groups. It is itself involved in state terrorism levelled against its own population, shutting down peaceful dissent by violent repression. Arresting, torturing and murdering those whom it accuses of fomenting unrest against the regime. The country's relentless harassment of religious minorities like the Baha'i, its arrest and torture of homosexuals, of political protesters, all mark it as a violently repressive regime.

But it is the country's training, arming and funding of extra-territorial Islamist groups dedicated to violence that has gained it international recognition as a threat to world peace. Yet Iran's clerics, its political executive elite, its ayatollahs and its Republican Guard enjoy presenting themselves as defenders of peace and tolerance in the world. Their faithful followers in Cuba, Venezuela, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan and elsewhere, practising a like agenda, agree.

Iran last year launched a conference on Nuclear Disarmament. The year before it was a conference on examining the truth of the occurrence of the Holocaust. This year the conference was titled the "International Conference on the Global Fight Against Terrorism". The objects of their derision and accusations were predictable; the United States and Israel; the Big and Little Satans. And by extension, Western democracies.

As a state sponsor of terrorism, Iran has no equal, although Libya once held pride of position. Iran had no problem assembling representatives of 60 countries of the world to attend their latest conference, taking place in Tehran. Those in attendance obviously had problems regarding the title and thrust of the conference as risibly hypocritical, the proverbial instance of evil posing as goodwill, the major threat to world stability presenting itself as concerned with peace.

And to this gathering, where the United States, Israel and Britain were identified as the major supporters of terrorism and threats to world peace, Western allies such as Pakistan and Afghanistan sent their heads of state to smilingly appear and shake hands with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Why would they not smile, given the reality that Western and specifically American treasury has benefited them hugely over the years, lining their pockets with riches, paying for their militaries and servicing their responsibilities to their populations?

Present also, most notably, was the United Nation's General Secretary, Ban ki-Moon's envoy, Mohammad Rafi al Din Shah who praised Iran and the conference as being "appreciated", since "holding conferences like the Tehran Conference can be considerably helpful in implementing" UN resolutions designed to combat terrorism. Whereupon it makes eminently good sense that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for attacks on the United States, Britain, Israel.

The world of Islam heard from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at the conference to combat terrorism not only that the United States, Israel and the West were responsible for terrorism, but that it is "a duty for all Muslims to confront and fight this inauspicious offspring" - of the devil one assumes. Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Mauritania, Cuba and the high-level delegates from 60 states as well as the "distinguished scholars and researchers and peace activists from around the world" who attended the conference cannot have been disappointed.

The official statement closing the conference mentioned how delighted the participants were, stressing the 'high importance' of such valuable get-togethers in 'further mobilizing political will and strengthening international capacities in countering terrorism at national and international levels. Enabling all those attending this love-in - which emphasized the false nature of the Holocaust and 9/11 to have been wicked conspiracies to cast Islam in a dim light to enable those who detest it to gain strength and conspire to enrich themselves through the possession of Muslim endowments - to reach a position of unequivocal condemnation.

All 'acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including State terrorism, economic terrorism, wherever, against whoever and by whoever they may be committed' also roundly and vehemently condemned. In an excess of self-righteous zeal and piquant humour where none was intended, the statement expressed its concern over the problems 'State terrorism has posed, for long, a real threat to the peace and stability of many nations across the globe through unlawful use of threat of force, aggression and occupation.'

In gaggingly obvious language and absurdly audacious hubris, the closing statement emphasized peoples' 'inalienable right of self-determination which should not be labelled as terrorism'. And that 'counter-terrorism measures shall be adopted and carried out in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law'. To which the United Nations, its envoy and his master, must have swooned with joy.

It reminded the participants of their responsibility to ensure co-operation and that terrorists must be brought to justice. And stressed the 'high importance' those divine religions that regard human life and dignity and peaceful coexistence among nations, place on peace. Rejecting 'any vicious attempt to associate or attribute terrorism to a particular culture, religion of nationality'. With the exception, needless to say, of Christians and Jews, Hindus and Sikhs and Buddhists and Baha'i.

Islam in particular must be protected from 'any offensive or provocative acts against its divine values and religious sanctities.' To which sublimely unassailable values all in attendance agreed wholeheartedly. Thanking their hosts for the enlightening entertainment, and pledging to commemorate the victims of terrorism.

In conclusion the Republic of Iraq, yet another friend of the West, and recipient of its treasury, offered to host the next such conference.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

A Tool of the Western World

Libya's new political governors-in-waiting are exultant that the International Criminal Court has issued a warrant against Col. Moammar Ghadafi, two of his top aides, his son Saif al-Islam and his regime's intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Sanussi. The arrest warrant is completely irrelevant, however, as the tribunal, the Libyan regime states, has no authority.

Claiming that the King of Kings is guilty of crimes against humanity merely points out to them that they are incompetent to judge a leader who is protecting his country against violent criminals, drug addicts and Islamists.

Rebel leaders in Benghazi in particular, however are wild with joy. People gathered in the streets to celebrate, and to fire their arms into the air in wild applause at the wisdom of the ICC. Although the rebels have been incapable of making headway in their purported push on to Tripoli and the eventual defeat of the regime, this recognition of Libya's torment on the part of their leader by the ICC, along with the regime targeting of NATO have given them new levels of optimism.

Moammar Gadhafi has succeeded in brutalizing his country, in attacking with mortars, helicopter gunships and tanks his unruly subjects. Thousands may have died in the process of defying his authority and attempting to dislodge him from his desert throne. He has so far succeeded in denying NATO the easy victory they initially assumed, thinking that a week would be all it would take to hand victory over to the rebels.

But in Syria Bashar al-Assad is conducting himself and his regime in a mirror-image assault in his people as well. In Syria too tens of thousands of desperate Syrians have had to flee their villages, their homes and their farms, eager to save themselves from the ravages of Assad's Republican Guard and his brother's avenging hatred for them. Villages have been razed, crops burned, farm animals destroyed, people murdered by sharp-shooting troops.

Syria's al-Assad has succeeded in infuriating a loyal ally up to the present time, with Turkey caring for over ten thousand of border refugees, many of them mutilated by Syrian troops. Turkey, a NATO member, has no wish for NATO to become involved in Syria. NATO has no wish for itself to become mired down in yet another ill-considered move to ameliorate an Islamic-led insurrection that requires an Islamic, not a Western solution.

As for the International Criminal Court, will they next target Bashar al-Assad, as they surely must if they've seen merit in charging Moammar Gadhafi. While considering ruefully the charges brought against Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir with three counts of genocide in Darfur, and the fact that he is welcome in any Arab or Muslim country of the world, all of whom shrug off the relevance of the charges against him.

So the tool of the Western World intent on prosecuting leaders in the Third World, limps along in its belief that by naming and shaming and urging arrest of the world's blatant mass murderers, it brings restorative justice to the world.

Not if the Arab Bloc and the African Bloc can help it.

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Back To Prison

It must have cost that overweeningly prideful man much indeed to appeal for clemency before Judge Amy St.Eve. "My family has suffered deeply ... I do have great concerns in that area." Couching his appeal in those terms; concerns for those whom he loves and who love him, absent his own concern for himself and further incarceration only slightly dimmed the prospect of laying himself wide open and vulnerable, hoping for mercy.

Judge St.Eve may have been recalling some of the caustic messages that issued in earlier days from Conrad Black's lips, characterizing the American justice system, its justices and law fraternity as inferior, and castigating them all for their intolerable miscarriage of justice that took him to prison as a man innocent of all charges brought against him. Most people have no love for those who criticize them; even less do those who have been charged with meting out justice.

At 66 years of age, it might have been thought that Lord Black would be spared further prison time. Given also the findings of the Supreme Court and their ruling on the law that ultimately brought him down as being too vague and loop-holed. And the fact that Lord Black comported himself with dignity and humility both, during and throughout his incarceration. And then, of course, the issue of his health problems.

He did not melt into a lump of self-absorbed pity, although he did burnish a lump of coal, sparking it occasionally to write his own unalterable account of his honour and integrity having been slandered without cause. What he did engage in was to communicate with the outside world through a series of sometimes random articles expounding on the state of the world's politics and economics from his knowledgeable and practical point of view.

And he shared with other prison inmates his formidable writing skills, encouraging others to express themselves as fulsomely and as professionally as he is capable of doing. He made friends among the other prison inmates, rather than stand in judgement upon them as incarcerants since he was one himself due to circumstances quite, at that point, outside his control.

He maintained an active email conversation and correspondence with people whom his agile mind and capability of expression intrigued. In short, he paid a penalty for what the law of the United States deemed to be a white-collar act of criminality, and in the process he acquitted himself outstandingly well, while being of use to many people inside the system.

To now impose upon him what will certainly be the onerous burden of another nine months' imprisonment seems a cruelty unwarranted by the circumstances.

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Copycat Capers

It isn't just juvenile delinquents who copy the activities and actions of others that bring suffering in their wake to others.

Acting out can look very appealing to the young and the bored who are motivated by socially-unacceptable and often harmful events. And of course there are events that are truly despicable, frightening and atrocious that draw the attention of people who are susceptible to emulating them for revenge, like the phenomenon of disaffected students entering a school with the intent to kill those who they imagine have done them ill.

Obviously the urge to do the kinds of socially blighted and immoral actions that are done by others are not restricted to the young and the restless. Although we hear far less about them, it would appear that the socially, politically and economically advantaged, also engage in practices that shine a dim light on their intelligence and morals.

The fall-out from the assault on a hotel maid in a New York hotel by IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has just faded from the news. A new head of the International Monetary Fund has yet to be selected, as a result of Mr. Strauss-Kahn's fall from grace. Yet here we are again.

A former chairman of the Bank of Alexandria and Egyptian American Bank, 72-year-old Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar, has been arrested on criminal charges brought against him by yet another hotel maid. And this time, the hotel maid, Doris Offel, is taking the initiative. She has filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court, asking for $1 million for each of the three counts Mr. Omar has been charged with, along with $2-million in punitive damages.

In the wake of the scandal that erupted with the charges brought against Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a number of articles have been written about the risk-fraught lives of hotel maids whom registered guests of the hotels they work at attempt to prey upon. This would seem to be a too-common occurrence.

Doubtless, when it is high-powered, wealthy clients of hotels, the maids are requested - or have been in the past - to mention nothing of the attempted assaults. Some clients, in fact, are known for their propensity to attempt assaults on women working alone in hotel suites in the presence of hotel guests. Those who are notorious for these types of assaults should be publicly named.

But they won't be, of course. Women are accustomed to absorbing the shame, men are excused simply because this is what so many men do, and this is what so many women have to put up with. And the balance of power is never in the woman's favour.

Ms. Offel's decision to launch a lawsuit, and the fact that Mr. Omar has been charged and arrested with the public ignominy that follows, may begin a reversal of this acceptance of 'men will be boys'.

And while Mr. Omar's lawyer commented that the lawsuit "speaks volumes to [the maid's] true motives" perhaps that lawyer could enlighten the world with respect to her client's true motives.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Peace and War

Crazy, isn't it? Offering a peace prize to a man who campaigned on a promise of escalating a war that his country was already well mired in. And the man proudly accepting that peace prize. As though that recognition was his due. As though he had somehow brought peace to the world. Instead, after the presidential campaign and his investiture as the 41st President of the United States of America, he made good on his promise.

His country was involved in a war that his predecessor had prosecuted when the United States and those of its allies that were 'willing' invaded Iraq, removed its murderous despot and unleashed in the process a heritage of repressed hatred between sects of Islam. The slaughterer of Iraq who had gassed, repressed and murdered his own, then went on to oversee further slaughter in a war against Iran where a million people perished, had kept his own Sunni and Shia from reciprocal murder.

The iron hand of his rule impressively removed by foreign invading troops left his former citizens free to indulge themselves in horrendous secular violence. Which eventually subsided to a degree, leaving an uneasy calm to take the place of nightly onslaughts from one community toward the other. And ten years on the United States prepares itself to release itself from overseeing the peace in Iraq, to its own responsibility.

And the removal of a troop surge that finally pacified the opponents in Islam, made it possible to surge those troops into Afghanistan to pacify resurgent insurgent Taliban in that country which the United States had left precipitately to enable it, after initially overthrowing the Taliban, to pounce on Iraq. And just latterly, the Nobel laureate president sent his warplanes over Libya. But not Syria. So the United States is engaged in war in three Islamic countries.

It is a war to liberate Muslims from their ruling oppressors. The secondary purpose, to bring them freedom and to usher them into the 21st Century, while teaching them on the fly the beauties of democracy and liberty and capitalism and social, political and economic opportunities. But tribal customs and religious dictates, culture and heritage are not so readily given to having modernity superimposed over them.

And the liberators who have enabled spontaneously-entrenched regime opposition to begin to triumph over the old dictatorial regimes are succumbing to the realization that the protesters and the opposition are not, in fact, even while mouthing words like 'freedom' and 'democracy' and 'equality', all that different than those whom they seek to replace.

In fact, the lingering, fearsome impression is that those waiting on the sidelines may represent even more tyrannical and brutal and freedom-sapping, human-rights-abusive regimes-in-waiting.
Odd thing that, how despite the best of intentions, those who seek to interfere and to assist where none is really required, somehow manage to encourage those elements that will one day come back to haunt them, personally.

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Mohammed to the Mountain

Before the turn of this spanking new century, the 21st, we began to hear dark stories coming out of Afghanistan, of a fanatical Islamist government called the Taliban, and what a menacing presence they were. In fact, the Canadian Homemakers magazine meant for Canadian women featured a few articles about the Taliban and their horrendous treatment of Afghan women, alerting women to their dreadful burden under fundamentalist Islam.

Then came 9/11 and everyone knew about the Taliban and what splendid hosts they were to al-Qaeda. And in 2003 the film, "Osama" was in circulation leaving little doubt about the suffering of Afghan women and children under the Taliban. Well before that, though, the Taliban defiantly shocked the world by demonstrating their imperious disdain for anything that was not Islamic. While forcing Afghan women to wear burqas and men beards, they outlawed music and laughter.

Most of all, anything that reflected Western society, or that was symbolic of a religion other than Islam was to be destroyed for the very presence of such talismans or symbols represented an abomination, an insult to Islam. And in Afghanistan existed two fifteen-hundred-year-old Buddhas, carved into the side of a mountain beside caravan trails part of the ancient Silk Road linking China with Western Asia.

These statues pre-dated Islam, there were a thousand Buddhist monks living in ten monasteries carved into the mountainside alongside the niches holding the Buddhas one of which was ten stories in height, the other a third smaller. Travelling in Japan one comes across sites with ancient Buddhas and they are compellingly beautiful to look at, though not as large nor as ancient as those in Bamiyan.

The Taliban issued a statement that they were preparing to destroy the offensive-to-Islam Buddhas. It was generally agreed among Islamic clerics that the destruction of statues dedicated to infidel gods was a duty imposed by the Koran on faithful Muslims. The Taliban Minister for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice ordered the matter to proceed.

Pleas to spare the statues from destruction came forward from sources all over the world, including UNESCO, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China, Japan and Sri Lanka. These denunciations of the Taliban intent only strengthened their resolve, and they proceeded to destroy the two monuments. But the statues resisted destruction.
"This work of destruction is not as simple as people might think. You can't knock down the statues by shelling as both are carved into a cliff; they are firmly attached to the mountain", explained the much-aggrieved Qudratullah Jamal, Taliban information minister.
Undeterred, they engaged engineers from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan who drilled holes in the statues to be filled with explosives and finally the destruction was achieved. Monuments that had withstood the tests of time, weather exposure and history were demolished through a wretched act of complete insanity, the hubris of one religion over another.

This isn't entirely unknown in history. In the 18th and 19th Centuries, France, Italy and Britain were responsible for pillaging and ransacking archaeological treasures and artifacts in Egypt. These were colossal monuments built by Ancient Egypt in honour of their kings and their gods, and the amateur archaeologists and plunderers of the day broke them into parts that could be transportable to European museums.

They were motivated by sheer greed of possession, to be able to display the wonders of the ancient world in their own museums. Egypt was in no condition politically and economically to defend its own heritage and possessions. A former circus strongman, the Italian Giovanni Battista Belzoni famously presented himself as an archaeologist. He explored and discovered the presence of ancient tombs and made a living removing and transporting them to museums that paid well.

In the process of which he did much damage to those sites and their ancient monuments. At that time legitimate archeology with people especially sensitive to what they were handling and dealing with and knowledgeable about the period and the objects were unknown. Belzoni is now credited, despite the huge damage he did to ancient sites, as the first of the Egyptologists.

That was several hundred years ago. The sensibilities and sensitivities of the Taliban are in response to a perceived and fundamental affront to their religion by the presence of artifacts of other religions. They worship only that which has meaning to their religion, considering all other shrines and monuments to be worthless and ripe for destruction. Whereas centuries ago there was a sense of awe and respect for ancient monuments, even while they were being pillaged for profit.

The 'graven images', the monumental statues, the pyramids and all vestiges of ancient civilizations, their societal values and religious beliefs and artifacts raise in us now the fervour of respect and admiration for societies we often think of as primitive but which were in fact adept and advanced in engineering and artistic techniques.

The hateful destructiveness in our modern era by an medieval-minded religiously fanatic group of Islamists determined to carry civilization back to the stone-age, represents a facet of human behaviour that even close study cannot adequately explain.

What it appears as it a collective, sinister dementia of the spirit masquerading as a divine religion.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Humanity of Islam

British computer programmer Peter Moore, held as a hostage for two years and seven months was eventually released by his captors. The three bodyguards assigned to his safety and taken hostage with him were far less fortunate, they did not survive their dreadful ordeal. And while Mr. Moore lived to tell the tale, he too suffered horribly, describing what he and the three men taken with him had to endure, as "absolutely terrifying".

Mr. Moore, was in Iraq to install accounting software. As in forensic accounting. For the purpose of tracking the billions of dollars' worth of foreign aid. And his purpose there was to teach the Iraqi bureaucrats who would be using it, precisely how to use it. His three bodyguards, all former soldiers, were working for a Montreal-based security firm, GardaWorld, when they were all taken hostage.

The four men, Jason Creswell, 38, Jason Swindlehurst, 39, Alec MacLachlan, 30, along with 36-year-old Peter Moore, were in a walled compound within the "red zone", near Sadr City. The three security guards had taken up watchful positions while the subject of their concern was engaged in his lecture. A convey of 20 vehicles ostensibly carrying uniformed Iraqi soldiers and police arrived.

Identity documents were presented and the armed troops made their entrance past guards at the gate, heading for the inner office of the building where Mr. Moore was engaged. His three bodyguards were disarmed and powerless, were taken away with Mr. Moore. They were missing, and no one knew for two years where they were, by whom they were taken, and the purpose of their disappearance.

Mr. Moore was accused by his captors of "deliberately lying to spoil the reputation of the Islamic resistance". This would be the Shia faithful of Iraq, League of the Righteous, an off-shoot of the main group, under the spiritual and political leadership of Moqtada al-Sadr, and his virulently anti-Western Mahdi army, another useful tool of Iran's power play.

When he was released in December of 2009 as a "good will gesture", Mr. Moore graphically described the famed Muslim courtesy he was exposed to: feet burned with a cigarette lighter, strangled until loss of consciousness, hung by arms from a door, doused with water, pistol-whipped, forced to endure repeated mock executions.

They were all, he said subjected to mock executions. This saw them "placed on their knees, blindfolded, a gun pointed to their heads and a different gun firing off elsewhere in the room. This caused immense trauma. It was absolutely terrifying." As well, the captives had been "chained by their feet to a rail or bar and blindfolded for long periods", beaten often and pistol-whipped.

When American security arrested the leader of the League of the Righteous, demands for his release by his followers commenced, and with those demands, offers for exchange. Eventually Laith al-Khazali was handed over to Iraqi police, representing a "good-will gesture". The terror group responded with their own good-will gesture, releasing the bodies of two of the bodyguards.

One had two gunshot wounds to his head and chest, the other had been shot three times at close range in the chest and abdomen, kneeling with hands on head. A recent inquest revealed he had twice been stabbed before being killed, had a broken rib, and had been shot around his legs while being "intimidated".

Radio-carbon dating of the bodies revealed the three were killed in 2008. Puts one in mind of the Israeli Defence Forces soldier Gilad Schalit who was abducted in 2006 by Hamas, when they also killed two other soldiers. Israel has been attempting for years to broker a deal with Hamas to release the Israeli soldier, prepared to reciprocate with the release of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Little is currently known of the status of Gilad Schalit, whether he is alive. The International Committee of the Red Cross has demanded that Hamas provide proof of life, after having repeatedly had their request for humanitarian access to the soldier denied them. When this request also was denied the ICRC characterized Hamas' conduct as "totally unacceptable".

Of course the world at large has small regard for the conduct of jihadist terror groups, given the examples of Islamist manoeuvres in the past. It's difficult to accept that the anti-human activities pursued by militantly violent Islamists are not condemned outright by the entire Muslim community who claim themselves to be moderates and who insist that Islam be recognized as a religion of peace.

The religion of peace, through the teachings of the Koran and the blighted interpretation of its mullahs, imams and other clerics condemns the international community for practising "Islamophobia". This is a religion whose fundamentalist faithful have been readily led to the belief that violence for the sake of advancing Islam is not only permissible but a sacred duty with its own rewards for shaheeds.

This is a religion where the Taliban, spreading good tidings of Islamic virtues and values, has mounted yet another attack on civilian Afghans. This time striking a hospital in the country's east, destroying the facility, burying people beneath the rubble, with so far 27 counted dead and 53 hurt, representing women, children and elderly among the casualties ... and counting.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Wilders Acquitted

The only logical and respectably legal outcome in the prosecution of Dutch politician Geert Wilders, acquitting him of the charges of inciting hatred of Muslims has been reached, exonerating him from all charges brought against him in an effort to silence the man. He would not, of course, be silenced. The simple reason being that his mission is far too important to him. As it should be to anyone with eyes to see, ears to hear.

Mr. Wilders is not an enemy of Muslims, only those Muslims who are utterly entranced by Islamofascism and who have dedicated themselves to destroying Western culture, Western civilization, Western democratic ideals, and of course, Western society. For the greater glory of Islam. Whose political-ideological-religious concern is to raise Islam to the status of world governing body, not merely as a religion with its own legal system, but as a political power structure.

Mr. Wilders points out, correctly, that Muslims who consider themselves to be mainstream and modest in their expectations and 'moderate', are held by Islamofascists to be traitors to Islam, apostates, actually. Whose fate under Islamist rule would be the ultimate sacrifice to restore their honour as faithful Muslims: death. The ferocious Islam that disciplines and holds captive its followers like automatons that must respond automatically to all its dictates has no truck with pluralism and gender equality, but it does boast a cure for homosexuality: death.

Now that the verdict has been handed down, consolidating and validating the long tradition of speech tolerance in the Netherlands, we can only hope that Mr. Wilders' growing influence in his home country will speed opposition to immigrants from Muslim-majority countries who intransigently refuse to assimilate with prevailing cultural mores and social attitudes when they migrate to the West. And who then insist on imposing their traditions and cultural values on the welcoming society.

His Freedom Party, aligned with the minority government, should shortly be seen to have more influence. His contention that acceptance of Muslim immigrants should be paused until the current influx has demonstrated its willingness and ability to adapt to Dutch culture and social values has satisfied their obligation to do so as citizens, makes good sense. There is too much divisiveness, resentment and political-religious violence prevailing now in various European countries like Britain and France, for example.

"This means that his political views are condoned by law, his political rhetoric has been legalized", according to political scientist, Andre Krouwel, at Amsterdam's Free University. "This has made him stronger politically. He is needed for a political majority, he is basically vice prime minister without even being in the government." A positive, long-overdue step forward.

Understandably, minority groups are angered and outraged. "The acquittal means that the right of minorities to remain free of hate speech has been breached. We are going to claim our rights at the UN", stated Mohamed Rabbae of the National Council for Moroccans. Prepared, it would seem, to take their case to the UN Human Rights Council.

Where they will doubtless be acclaimed for their courage in bringing the Netherlands to account before a human rights group whose membership represents some of the worst human-rights abusers on the globe, and whose record on condemning Israel, while pardoning the most vicious abuses by Muslim countries is truly atrocious.

It is a warped world that the United Nations' various committees represent.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Probe of Islamist Infiltration: Pakistan

Pakistan, the great good friend and ally of the United States, was anguished and consumed with rage that U.S. Navy SEALs had manged to enter their air space without permission. Its leaders and its military and its secret service were even more enraged that a precision, split-second operation dispatched Osama bin Laden whose presence in Abbottabad was completely unknown to the political and military hierarchy.

And that, before Pakistan could scramble a response to the eventual alert that something was amiss in their sovereign airspace, the SEALs had successfully concluded their operation and fled the scene with incriminating documentation, hard drives and all manner of data that would greatly assist their friend and ally in arresting the commission of future attacks against the United States.

Truth to tell, the population of Pakistan was not terribly enthused either that a country whom they loathe had the determined audacity to take their own by surprise. And the embarrassment of the executive branch of government at having to acknowledge that al-Qaeda's infamous leader and aspiring mass butcher of the West had been living a well-sheltered life a stone's throw from an elite military garrison.

And no one knew. Not the ISI, not the Pakistan military brass, and certainly not the country's President or Prime Minister. Perhaps the milkman did, for he was, among other lowly inhabitants of the town, arrested. As were five Pakistani "informants", whom the military claims gave assistance to the CIA enabling it to amass vital data useful in planning the deadly raid.

One of the "informants" a Pakistani Army major who thoughtfully took down license plate numbers of vehicles that regularly drove to Osama bin Laden's sheltered compound. And who surreptitiously - in the obviously erroneous impression that he was honourably committing to the oft-heard government assurances to the U.S. of co-operation - was sharing that information with the CIA.

However, the Pakistani military, while denying vehemently that it had any knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts, much less assistance and cover given him, denied any army officers had been detained. The ISI had no comment.

But they are busy-busy, yes indeed. Having strenuously denied all charges emanating from their friends and colleagues conjoined in battling terrorism that the ISI and the military have been infiltrated at every level by the very jihadists they were supposed to be battling, the army has now detailed four majors and a brigadier whom they are investigating.

Brigadier Ali Khan represents the highest-ranking military official currently known to have been detained for involvement in insurgent activities. His arrest signifies that Hizb ut-Tahrir has been highly successful in negotiating ingress into the official military ranks of the country.

What an immense, totally unexpected revelation.

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Who, Me? No, Him

"All my life I have fought against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination, having been subjected to it myself. I can see that this whole affair has caused a lot of upset and sadness. I apologize because the man you see up there [in the video] is not John Galliano."
Who it is hasn't been revealed by Mr. Galliano. It looks like him, it has the sound of his voice, and the body language is a dead ringer for his, but it's not him. Because what's emanating from his voice is pure bile, hateful invective that the real John Galliano testifies he would never commit himself to. For he hasn't a racist cell in his body.

Besides which, although his abusive and threatening and insulting slurs which were directed at a number of women who were absolute strangers to him, have not lingered in his memory. He cannot recall ever having uttered such hateful slanders. On second thought, it might have been him, but he was obviously not in possession of his senses.

Those had been taken out of his possession by the evils of addictions to alcohol, to sleeping pills, to Valium. Nothing illegal about any of those substances. And nothing untoward about entering a bar conveniently located close to where he lives, even while under the influence. He wasn't driving, he was merely locating himself where others were also disporting themselves.

So the genius of haute couture behind Dior and the Galliano brand absolutely and without any equivocation in his part denies the charges levelled against him of racism and anti-Semitism. The damage wrought to his reputation, to his acceptance in polite, elite social circles, to his future as a designer and businessman, has been catastrophic.

He has suffered. Enormously.

Not least at the grief he suffered when his father and then his "dear friend" and business partner died an untimely death. Which was why he required the release from his anguished state of mind accessed with the ameliorating use of alcohol and barbiturates. So it was he, but not yet he who called one woman "dirty Jewish face" and "dirty whore a thousand times".

And it was John Galliano, but yet not John Galliano who told a museum curator at Le Perle that she was a "dirty whore", another a "f----- Asian bitch", and yet another during a previous incident, a "f----- ugly Jewish bitch". Not was it he who shouted at two Italian women "People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f----- gassed."

Clearly an unfortunate instance of mistaken identity.

And the complainants? The real John Galliano has launched a counter-suit for defamation of character. Which character? Take your pick.

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Mourning Neda Soltan

During Iran's failed "green revolution" when hundreds of thousands of Iranians swept into the streets in Tehran and other cities of the Islamic Republic of Iran after the presidential vote that was so obviously corrupted and which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, one particularly vile incident seemed to stand out, arresting the attention of the world.

A young university student, curious about what was occurring on the streets, decided to go out for herself, with a few friends, to witness her country's latest upheaval. She hadn't been a part of the protest group. She was, in effect, a bystander. Her name was Neda Soltan, and her dying agony on the street, shot by a motorcycle basiji at random, was indelibly captured for posterity.

The Republican Guard and their helpers, the black-clad, motorcycle-driving, gun-wielding basiji eventually wore down the protesters. Thousands of protesters proudly wearing symbolic green signifying their determination to effect a social-political revolution, led by two main political figures, were arrested, placed in detention, many tortured, and some murdered.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was forcefully blunt and decisive; the protest was not to succeed and the people would simply have to accept that he decreed the vote was perfectly above board and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency was to continue. Battered and downcast, the revolutionaries withdrew their protests into simmering resentment that still resonates.

On the anniversary of their daughter's murder, her parents, Ali Agha Soltan and his wife Hajer, visited the cemetery where their daughter is buried. The cemetery was accessible only to the relatives; the public not permitted entry, and police were present to ensure that nothing untoward occurred that might disturb the peace.

When Neda Soltan's mother became anguished at the site in expressing her inconsolable grief, laying flowers at their child's gravesite, police intervened. Ali Agha Soltan was angered at the orders of the security forces for their hostile show of disrespect, and as he protested, he was shoved to the ground and placed in a headlock.

They lost their daughter and gained the enmity of the government. They are not to express grief in public; to do so is to risk being assaulted.

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Social Criminality

The United States can still be considered the most wealthy country in the world. Yet its citizens are spectacularly ill served in the most fundamental of ways. Every country in the world, regardless of how socially advanced, how technologically adept, how proud of its presence and power, its wealth and resources and the resourcefulness of its population, is plagued by a division between the haves and the have-nots.

There are endemic poor living everywhere. But most democratic, wealthy countries have social welfare valves that enable their social-economic underclass to have the dignity of care when it's needed. Universal health care is one such necessity, accessibility to some forms of social welfare, another. Lack of accessible health care, even of the most basic kind, is a formidable sin that any society should seek to amend.

Possibly it's because the United States has left the issue unresolved for so long, it has become so difficult to institute a universal program at this point. Its dedication to the principle of economic capitalism and its aversion to anything smacking of socialism and universal accessibility also complicate matters. Apart from which, it is an expensive undertaking to ensure the universality of access to health care.

Universal health care comes with the uncomfortable proviso that profit will be either eliminated or substantially reduced. This does not sit well with ambitious health professionals, nor with bottom-line-obsessed pharmaceutical manufacturers. But that's a story that's well enough known, and which a succession of American presidents have resolved to tackle and to succeed in resolving.

In the interim, a 59-year-old former truck driver suffering from arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and ruptured spinal discs, in pain and determined somehow to obtain medical assistance, temporarily lost his law-abiding status for planned criminal charges. He had no medical insurance, had depleted his savings, and was unable to find anyone to treat his medical conditions.

At a bank in North Carolina he approached a teller, handed over a note that informed her: "This is a bank robbery. Please only give me one dollar." She obliged. He informed her that when police arrived, they would find him waiting: "I'll be sitting right over there on the chair waiting for the police."

"I'm sort of a logical person, and that was my logic, what I came up with. If it is called manipulation, then out of necessity because I need medical care, then I guess I am manipulating the courts to get medical care." He was hoping for three years' imprisonment. He was charged with "larceny from a person"; the $1 was not enough to qualify as bank robbery.

He has spent a week in jail. And there he has received medical care. Pathetic in the extreme. He's right, though, three years is likely more representative of the time he needs to obtain medical attention to do justice to his health needs.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

United Nations' Dismal Record

The United Nations is on track to celebrate its 66th year of representing the best interests of the world, in promoting peace and harmony and human rights, protecting the liberty, health and aspirations of the very fractious world we live in. It is a noble calling, and one that was thought to be necessary to herald a new, enlightened world where the universal values that we place trust in would be recognized by all world leaders who would be prepared to champion them and bring value to their countries and their citizens.

The achievement of equality between men and women, the recognition of basic human rights and peoples' entitlement to all of the democratic freedoms that the socially advanced countries of the world have adopted; the respect of all religions with the freedom to practise one's own ideology and the expectation that hostility toward one another should be a lamentable burden of the past reflected in history's ghosts of blemished and shameful events that saddened and mortified civilized societies.

Something happened on the way to the forum of global enlightenment and the resolve to bring the world to tolerance and harmony. Human nature intervened. It quarrelled with the concept of universal verities. It insisted that not all other societies were worthy of equal consideration. That only their religion and their cultural values were genuine and worthwhile. And it became clear that they, with their histories brought into the present for constant replication, their xenophobic tribal proclivities and hostilities gave proof to the adage that a tiger doesn't change its stripes.

And nor does humankind. Distrust of the 'other', hubristic entitlement reflecting the glory of one's own heritage and culture, the demeaning of others, and violent settlements of disagreements through warfare was meant to continue, regardless of the most noble of intentions. The small contingent of civilly advanced societies with their democratic values were the minority whose vision gave birth to the League of Nations, then the United Nations which gradually absorbed additional countries for membership.

The majority membership of the United Nations is comprised now of non-democratic countries of the world, including those who declare themselves to be politically democratic but of a nature scarcely recognizable as such, led by tyrants and autocrats. And the failures of the United Nations have become too numerous to count in its inability to refrain from becoming as fractious as the natures of the nations represented. The aura of respect and deference that body now enjoys reflects a veneer of purpose that its actual accomplishments belie.

And nowhere is that failure more evident than the two areas where its work on behalf of peace and human rights have failed to produce meaningful approaches to solve the monumental issues of the day. Despite sanctions and reproaches and peace-keeping interventions the United Nations has been unable to forestall national and intra-country slaughters of immense proportions. The world has looked on as the United Nations metaphorically wrings it hands in despair over civil wars and despots who violate the human rights of their societies.

And because the greater proportion of the general membership is comprised of countries with emerging economies and emerging social systems that remain abusive and violent, they form political blocs within the United Nations with the power to render the influence of the minority democratic countries void. The insult to human intelligence that portrays itself as the UN's Human Rights Council regularly votes into membership some of the world's most abusive human-rights-defying countries of the world.

And because of the influence of the oil-wealthy Islamic bloc (Organization of the Islamic Conference), allied with the African bloc and supported by "cross-regional" groups comprised of Russia, Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, china, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Syria, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Tajikistan, Iran and Egypt, one country is regularly singled out to receive censure, while those whose human-rights records are abysmal, are welcomed to sit on the Council.

By all indices relating to human rights and peaceful international relationships, the United Nations represents a sad failure of human fallibility triumphing over what we like to think of as humankind's better nature, the ability to evoke compassion and understanding and to extend to others the courtesy of acceptance through the virtue of collective trust.

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Why Palestinians Make Good Citizens

Police: Arab Towns 'Like the Wild West'
by David Lev Cops: Arab Towns Like Wild West

Police on Tuesday admitted that they were out of ideas on how to stem the high level of crime in the cities of “the triangle,” the Arab towns and cities that extend from north of Kfar Sava to Um el-Faham and Wadi Ara. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Shimon Shomroni, Israel Police Commander of the Sharon Region, said that police “were unsuccessful in meeting some of our goals in reducing crime. Some murders have not been solved,” he said, going on to describe the cities of the triangle as “the Wild West.”

Shomroni said he did not use that term loosely. “Residents of these cities have a tradition of gunfighting like in the old West,” he said. “If I were to fly a plane with a magnet attached to its bottom over Tira and Taibe, the plane would fall apart, and be dragged to the ground by all the metal weapons in these cities. That's how many weapons there are in the Triangle.

“The Arabs threaten us, while they educate their children that the police are inconsequential, all the while complaining that we don't do enough,” Shomroni continued. “I reject these charges.”

Police statistics showed that 71% of incidents of shootings and murders in the cities of the Triangle occurred on weekends, with at least half of them occurring between 9 PM and 3 AM. “We have increased patrols during these times and days, trying to keep track of the high-crime periods,” Shomroni said.

Shomroni told the reporters that police had allocated many resources to ensure safety in the Triangle, but that residents offered almost no cooperation. “We have taken off the gloves, and are operating with zero tolerance towards criminals. We recently began operating special units in the area, along with helicopters, mounted police, dog patrols, as well as Border Guard units, in our effort to bring down crime.” Some of these units ensure that orders to demolish buildings or close businesses issued by courts are enforced, as the private individuals and organizations the orders are issued on behalf of do not dare attempt to enforce the orders, fearing for their lives, Shomroni said.

“Crime cannot be stopped in one day,” Shomroni told the reporters. “There are numerous criminals in the triangle who commit crimes and then disappear for weeks at a time, taking refuge in Palestinian Authority controlled areas.” As a result, he said, police have increased their cooperation with the IDF, especially in peripheral areas. Joint IDF and police patrols now pursue these criminals into Arab towns and villages in order to make criminal arrests of these Israeli citizens, he said.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 22 June 2011

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inhumanely Demented

She's a nine-year-old schoolgirl. A child, wearing a school uniform, on her way to school. However precocious young girls can be, at nine they are vulnerable and fearful that they may come to harm. And this young girl very nearly did. Her name is Sohana Javaid. She was abducted by Pakistani militants for a most express purpose. To be convinced that her life was worthless, yet worth something to Allah, as a martyr.

She did not, however, seem very convinced by their argument. And in all likelihood did not appreciate being fitted out with a suicide vest under her blue and white school uniform. It appears that her family may not have been aware that their daughter was missing. Pakistani police, while explaining to the media what had occurred, mentioned they had been unable at that point to contact her family.

Yet she appeared on television, in her school uniform. "They kept me in a house and they told me to push the button when I reach near policemen", she informed reporters at a press conference. Imagine, nine years old and the subject of a press conference.
Video grab of <span class=Sohana Javaid at a news conference ..." id="photoMain">

Of course, jihadists have done this type of thing before; recruited, either forcefully or by tender solicitation, young people in their teen years, as well as those with intellectual impairment, and of course women who have been convinced that it becomes their duty as faithful Muslims to avenge the assaults against Islamic values against the infidels and perhaps as well other Muslims of the wrong sect who were little better than infidels.

"She was wearing eight kilograms of explosives, which was quite heavy for her age. Her body language was suspicious", said the regional police chief, speaking with Agence France-Presse.

Sohana Javaid describes the situation with some clarity: "They put one suicide vest on me, but it did not fit. Then they put on a second one. I threw away the vest and started shouting (for help) as I came close to the checkpost and they (security forces) took me into custody."

Custody: that's a neat word for a 9-year-old to have in her vocabulary.

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Endangering Credibility

Moammar Gadhafi is still manipulating Arab opinion, still desperately attempting to influence the average man on the street in the Middle East and North Africa, asserting that Muslims should be reacting en masse to the violation of Libya's sovereignty by the Crusader invaders who are deliberately attacking his country, killing his civilians, and planning to take ownership of Libya's oil riches.

The Libyan Foreign Minister, Abdulati al-Obeidi has made a passionate appeal "for all Muslims to initiate a global jihad against the oppressive criminal West". As it happens, even the rebels appear to be having second thoughts about NATO involvement, even though they themselves urged on that involvement.

Still, their initial enthusiasm has dwindled somewhat, and perhaps incrementally, with each succeeding NATO attack of 'friendly fire' on the rebel ranks, mistaking them for government troops. Unfortunate miscommunication, leading to heartfelt apologies and assurances of good will and ongoing co-operation and grumbling from the other side.

The regime opponents said from the onset they wanted no foreign troops on the ground in their country, just the benefits of overflights, so NATO could bomb the hell out of the regime's warplanes and helicopter gunships to keep them from firing on the towns and villages held by the rebels. Of course they also appreciated bombs raining down on Col. Gadhafi's compounds.

The error of bombing a civilian enclave and bringing down a large home of an extended family, killing all within, some 17 family members, did not go down especially well in Libya. NATO, after having repeated ad nauseum that they do not target individuals, also conducted an airstrike a day later on the home of one of the regime's top officials.

Again, foreign reporters were taken to hospital and shown the bodies of two children from among the eight children claimed to have been killed, for a total of 19 people's lives destroyed this time around. What doesn't much help matters is that the man whom they were hunting, Khouildi Hamidi,one of the 12 Revolutionary Command council members was himself unhurt.

The Arab League, which had requested and recommended NATO intervention in Libya gravely condemned these occurrences: "When the Arab League agreed on the idea of having a no-fly zone over Libya, it was to protect civilians but when civilians get killed, this has to be condemned with the harshest of statements" said the League's deputy secretary-general.

Libyan officials have characterized the strike on Hamidi's house "a cowardly terrorist act". So then, the Libyan regime, preying on its people, maliciously bombing towns, raping women, using sharp-shooters to get their mark, terrorizing the population into fearful submission is merely a government doing what governments must to retain order.

And the West which instead of the Arab League, rode to the rescue of the people of Libya, as they did in Bosnia, and in Afghanistan and in Iraq, has once again fuelled the theory that will not die, that Western democracies are determined to slaughter Muslims and to take possession of their oil riches.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Afghan Taliban, Afghan Local Police...Difference?

Out with the old, in with the new. Fresh blood, with inventive perceptions and clever interventions. NATO has realized some success in its search for senior Taliban commanders, isolating them and taking them out of commission. And in their place come new Taliban commanders, young and brash and confident. And totally without compassion. Young men who have known only combat and brutal confrontation with foreign enemies.

If they started out with some element of human kindness in their bones, it somehow drained away through the years of exposure to bloody warfare. Or perhaps the brutality bespeaks a genetic endowment allowed free reign in a lawless society where tribal resentments and clan pride and honour and the crass enablement of enriching oneself became an integral part of life's experience.

Western intelligence officials along with their Afghan counterparts have identified this new breed of Taliban warriors, militants who have replaced the killed or captured older commanders. The young recruits have been taught the fine points of jihad by Pakistani fanatics, themselves trained and expert in the use of modern weaponry paired with the immortal words of the Koran.

These new commanders are ruthless killers. They will not turn back at signs of danger to themselves. And they exact the most balefully sinister punishments on their enemies through torture and death. And to teach their own troops the benefits of obeying commands to the nth degree, punishment for those who do not, serves as a warning to those who waver.

Link that to the emergence of Afghan militias, trained and armed by the U.S. to act as local protectors from the Taliban, of towns and villages where the Afghan National Police and the Army do not extend their purview. Those local militias have learned the joys inherent in preying on the local people, beating and robbing them and sometimes killing them as well.

The local militias, trained and armed by U.S. troops in Kandahar, where a U.S. troop surge has taken over from Canada, with the idea that these men know the territory, know the inhabitants, have a tribal rapport with them, interact easily with them for they are all regional Afghans, have turned into violence-prone gangs under no one's control and direction but their own.

Their vicious predation on the rural populations, as they present in the guise of Afghan Local Police, but behaving much like morally demented criminals, (which is what they are), have posed a dilemma to those upon whom they prey, and those who trained them to serve and protect, alike. "If there were no Americans in the area, these people would steal our turbans", said one farmer of the local police.

And here is Hamid Karzai, speaking out yet again, on his opinion of NATO, as 'invaders' and 'occupiers', urging foreign powers to remove their troops from Afghanistan, even as he anticipates that they will remain and continue to assist him in his tenuous hold on power.

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Turkey to Assad: Cease

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a speech. He spoke to his countrymen, and by extension to the outside world. They're put on notice, and so is the world outside. Theirs not to judge. And it's difficult to assemble all the details, since no foreign news people are permitted entry, and Syria's press is Syria's official press. No reforms until the insurrection has been put down.

The country is eager for change, but for those utterly devoted to their President, and they would be Allawite Shia. The Kurds and the Sunni, who figure they've been treated abominably as second- and third-class non-citizens for far too long and who feel justified in challenging the regime and causing such unforgivable instability will continue to be hammered into the ground until they desist.

Of course suspicion of support of the insurgents is a guarantee of being hammered. By sharp-shooters, helicopter gunships, tank artillery, take your pick. And if that's not enough the regime will starve them out, just like a siege in ancient times when a surrounding foreign army would lay siege to a town settlement sheltering within its surrounding protective walls, but lacking water and food.

Syrian troops are massed on the border with Turkey, visiting border towns and villages and farms and paying the courtesy of an uninvited call. Torching bakeries and shops so they may no longer be able to provide food for the thousands of trapped refugees still on the Syrian side of the border. Fruit-bearing trees uprooted, crops plowed under, wells poisoned, what's left?

The Arab League is waiting, and watching and saying little. Turkey has taken the initiative and is sheltering over ten thousand refugees among whom are many who have been badly wounded. Turkey is speaking directly to Syria about Turkish distress over the turn of events. It is most un-Islamic behaviour for a leader of a country to bludgeon his population.

It is not dreadfully unusual behaviour, nor entirely unexpected for it has occurred often enough in the past, and continues to occur to varying degrees in North Africa and the Middle East, but it is civilizationally untoward.

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Blunt Force Trauma

NATO just gave Libya a public relations gift. It was only a matter of time, after all. While the Libyan regime claimed in the past that NATO bombing had struck civilians, this time they really did. And where, of all places, but in a stronghold of political dissenters, part of the population that detests Moammar Gadhafi, and supports NATO's intervention. And this is what they get for it.

They're not alone, though. The incidence of 'friendly fire' where NATO bombers have struck convoys comprised of rebel militias, the very groups whom NATO is there to protect, have become quite irritating to the rebels. How many strikes and they're out? Well, three strikes so far on rebel convoys, and this fourth on a multiple home housing 17 people of an extended family in east Tripoli.

"NATO regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives", announced the commander of the Libyan mission. Initially it was said they were targeting a munitions depot, but there was no such installation there. So on the second occasion blame was given to a possible "weapons system failure". A verbal band-aid on the reality of strained relations emerging between NATO and the rebels.

Remember back when the rebels were urging NATO to commit, and when NATO finally agreed, with the go-ahead of the United Nations, all the cheering that erupted from the rebel ranks? It would be only a matter of a few weeks, they'd march on Tripoli, with NATO watching their backs for them, and remove the King of Kings.

Foreign reporters, kept on a leash and trotted out whenever the regime wants to get some press, were hauled over to the site. To witness the three-storey building collapsed in mounds of rubble, and bodies being removed from the interior. At Tripoli Central Hospital the mangled bodies of a baby and a child were displayed for the shocked newsmen.

And the regime's propaganda machine was fuelled with fresh accusations of deliberate targeting of civilians by NATO to break the iron will of Libya, which will not bend, which will defend to its dying breath its magnificent, beloved leader whose only care is for the welfare of his people.

The hard truth: in conflict situations disasters occur, people are killed, and though the deaths of non-combatants is dreadful, it's also inevitable. War is war.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

To Mars And Back

The United States suffered a psychological blow to its self-esteem and its trust in its forward-looking technological advantage over its arch-foe, the Soviet Union, when Sputnik blasted into space, taking the U.S. completely by surprise, and giving the advantage to the U.S.S.R. in space exploration. The 1957 coup began the launch of a number of satellites and the scramble by the United States to overtake the advances of the U.S.S.R.

It didn't take all that long before they succeeded. The launch that led to the moon landing was a spectacular achievement. And subsequent space ventures have been additionally monumental in furthering our knowledge about space and its potential exploration, and the stuff of the universe. But it is immensely costly, an ongoing enterprise that requires constant technological advances in metallurgy and mechanics and the manipulation of materials properties.

The advanced technologies developed by NASA scientists in developing techniques and advanced materials have had spin-offs in military usage and advantages as well as civilian usage. And the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope is teaching astronomers and physicists much about the chemical and atomic structure of the universe, revealing new galaxies and going much beyond the hypothetical and conjecture to solid data collection.

And now, after collaboration with Russian scientists and astronauts, in the mutual interest inherent in the building, equipping and research facilities in the international space station, the United States is winding down its shuttle program. That wasn't meant to happen; though the shuttle fleet is being retired NASA planned for the future to take humans beyond low-Earth orbit.

The G.W. Bush administration's decision to put the shuttle program on hold was supposed to be temporary. The current Obama administration made the decision to bring the program to an end, keeping open the potential for future investments in spacecraft for the future - to launch exploration to an asteroid, return to the moon, possibly head out to Mars.

It's entirely possible another country will beat them to that enterprise, for there are now emerging competitors for the acquisition of futuristic plans to conquer space in a way that has not yet been done. We can shudder at the prospect of impoverished North Korea finding the wherewithal to fund an ambitious enterprise, while its population starves. We can fear Iran's resolute determination to acquire nuclear weapons at the same time it aspires to launch into space.

A likelier scenario might be China investing hugely in its own ambitions to launch into space, leaving all competitors behind in an effort to launch a bid for mineral extraction on nearby planets. China has no shortage of physicists and nuclear scientists and astronomers of her own. China's huge export advantage has it in line to become the world's supreme power house. One to whom the United States is dependent for holding its colossal debt.

But for purely unanticipated irony, we can muse how unlikely it might have seemed fifty years ago that the United States would be reduced to having NASA rent out seats in the near future on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ship its astronauts back and forth from the international space station.

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Killing Fields

In a world that brought a global institution into place which was meant to act as a clearing house for conflict resolution and encouragement for international peace and human rights because of a stricken conscience after the details of the Holocaust were made public, the best of intentions and the co-operation of world governments still hasn't been successful in restraining countries from embarking on mass slaughter.

The world has, since the end of the Second World War, and the inauguration of the United Nations with all its grand humanitarian concepts and intentions, witnessed wholesale slaughter of populations irrespective of those intentions. From Cambodia to the Balkans, Rwanda to Darfur, the ruthless tyrants whose brutal will has enlisted one tribe against another in a paroxysm of blood-letting, have demonstrated that the best of intentions cannot prevail against the worst of human depravities.

Tribalism, clan warfare, territorial aggression and the seemingly natural inclination of humanity to distrust and hate those who are different seems to lead us to betray our humanity. It was fairly well known through news stories at the time, when the government of Sri Lanka took its military to a final confrontation with the Tamil terror militia, the Tamil Tigers, that both the Tigers and the Sri Lanka military were abusing civilian Tamils.

But it's taken the documentary Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, to demonstrate conclusively just how disastrously intolerably was the menace launched against the civilian Tamils, caught between the embattled Tigers and the better-armed, more conventionally trained and numbered of the government forces. The Sri Lankan government did not permit foreign reporters into the war torn landscape.

And the Sri Lankan government was beside itself with satisfaction when the violence finally came to an end, that they had killed the LTTE leader and destroyed the prospect of future uprisings from a defeated terror group. The atrocities committed by government troops were self-documented by the troops themselves, taking casual souvenirs in video form of the horrors they committed against defenceless Tamils.

The Sri Lankan military shelled hospitals that were treating the dreadful wounds of Tamil civilians. Those attacks were deliberate, and there were 65 attacks against field hospitals and their personnel desperately attempting to treat the wounded without drugs and adequate medical supplies. The military knew where those hospitals were located, the commanders given co-ordinates, but they attacked deliberately.

The Tigers also held civilian Tamils by force, as a protective shield against government troops. But neither did the troops much care that they would have to slaughter civilians to get to the Tamil militias. And when they did, it was found that among the Tigers killed were children among the terrorists who had been forcibly conscripted to fight the government troops.

All of this, with the exception of graphic descriptions and footage of the atrocities that took place, was hinted at and written about in the media of the day, in 2009, but the proof positive is now being aired on public television channels. The government of Sri Lanka is denying the authenticity of the footage, but they have been independently authenticated by video experts.

When the United Nations recently denounced the Sri Lankan government, and hinted at a trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, the direction of proceedings that may yet eventuate was given form. Khartoum has yet to give credence to charges of crimes against humanity levelled against Omer al-Bashir, and it's likely that Colombo will respond in kind.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Middle East: Medievalism and Space Technology

The vicious military crackdown in Syria against regime protesters over the past three months has resulted in a traumatized population living in fear initially attempting to persuade their tyrant that it would be greatly appreciated if he allowed for a little more breathing room, to a new situation where beleaguered militant activists are more committed than ever to effecting change.

While Bashar al-Assad's response has become ever more firmly entrenched in the response of resolute brutality that has shocked even its Islamist neighbours by the intensity of its viciousness, the recipients of that crackdown have become more courageous in their outlook, their fears dimmed by the outrage of their untenable position.

It seems counter-intuitive, that a population of subservient, unprivileged, downtrodden and bullied citizens long accustomed but never adjusted to the brutality of victimization and lack of basic human rights, facing a deadly onslaught, would dig in their heels rather than succumb. Over ten thousand frantic civilian Syrians have fled their besieged towns and villages for safety in refugee camps in Turkey.

And the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is sheltering those refugees with the Red Crescent's help, declaring itself to be disbelieving at the extent of the atrocities the Syrian military has perpetrated on its own people. This is the same Islamist Turkish government that has made cozy overtures toward Iran as well as Syria and their proxy militias, Hamas and Hezbollah. Mr. Erdogan heretofore has considered Syria a staunch Islamist ally.

And doubtless would have no truck with the attempted green revolution in Iran, considering the protests there to be led by anti-government scum. They were, in fact, the civilizational elite of Iran, the more highly educated, the professionals; lawyers, doctors, university academics and opposition political parties. For whom the Islamic Republic of Iran's response to the organized protests was swift and decisive.

When the Republican Guard and the basiji struck at the protesters, used sharp-shooters to kill some at random, arrested countless others, subjecting them to torture and sometimes death in incarceration, the Iranian protesters' resolve began to dwindle. A newly-elected President of the United States thought deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize murmured a few words of support, and nothing more; the outside world silently looked on at the Iranian protesters' suffering.

Protest in Iran has withdrawn itself from full public view. Protest in Iran leads a closeted, internal life, safe from the inquisitive predations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose corrupted re-election had sparked the protests to begin with. Iranians, despite the Republic's forays into advanced science and technology, know they live within a medieval empire embracing modernity and space technology for wretchedly twisted purposes.

Might it seem facetious to recommend to the Islamist Republic of Iran that Grand Ayatollah Khomeini settle his disagreements with President Ahmadinejad by honouring him with the invitation to become the first Iranian to be launched into space in that 285-kilogram capsule set to speed into the atmosphere this summer by Iran's Space Organization? President Ahmadinejad, after all, unveiled the space capsule with great pride.

To him should go the honour of escorting it into the great wide yonder.

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The Goal of Martyrdom

Can any Islamic scholar's credentials be raised higher than being able to boast that his grandfather was the grand imam of Al Azhar, one of the most important mosques in the Arab world? That he graduated from Egypt's most prestigious medical school? Further distinguished by being a youthful member of the Muslim Brotherhood, eventually elevating himself to the leadership of Islamic Jihad?

That is a heritage, experience and scholarship to be reckoned with. And of course close confidant of Osama bin Laden. This is the man, Ayman al-Zawahri, who has a monumental bounty on his head: $25-million; no takers yet. His brilliance led to compelling bin Laden to the acceptance that violent jihad was perfectly acceptable to Allah for the greater purpose of achieving a global supervisory role on behalf of Islam.

Suicide attacks are perfectly permissible, in fact most desirable, for they represent the ultimate goal of martyrdom. Ayman al-Zawahri's forte is as a battlefield plotter, but there is nothing conventional about his cunning forays into terror. His focus, like that of Osama bin Laden, was to bring the United States to its knees. He planned the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

Masterminded the bombing of the USS Cole, the bombing of the World Trade Center, the 2005 London transit system bombings and of course the infamous attacks of September 11, 2001, an event that no one will ever forget witnessing at a remote through modern telecommunications, as the horror unfolded.

He has an impressive scorecard of hits and slaughter. His fervent service to Death on behalf of Islam has been recognized as he takes on the burden and the glory as the new head of al-Qaeda. His newer purpose will be to avenge the death of bin Laden. And to properly accomplish that he will have to devise something truly terrible and spectacular.

And the world is placed on notice. As it resolves to respond as it must in the name of liberty in service of humanity. The response to Ayman al-Zawahri's plans must be to respect his elevation of martyrdom as the highest accomplishment available to an elite Islamist. And to facilitate him toward that very personal goal.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

IOC's Antics

Ludicrous beyond belief that the International Olympic Committee has put its foot deep into foul excrement yet again. This time giving recognition to an odious regime whose head is slaughtering his own population which has brought a popular revolution into the international arena. Libya has the forthright censure of the Arab League, though not of the African League. It has the combined forces of NATO in its airspace, bombing government infrastructure and its leader's compounds.

Yet Libya's National Olympic Committee, headed by one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, Muhammad al Gadhafi, has proceeded with the IOC as though nothing were particularly amiss in his part of the world. He has requested, as is the due of any nation's Olympic Committee head, for his share of free tickets to the Games. And those tickets were allocated as per request, allowing Mr. Gadhafi to proceed with selling them and making them available to his father's inner circle.

Predictably enough, when word got out, a protest ensued, with a member of the British delegation remarking "The IOC are responsible for putting Britain in the hugely invidious position of bombing Libya one day and having to give them a huge heap of Olympics tickets the next." That's a real bitch of a contretemps, isn't it?

So the IOC hastily backpedalled: "To be absolutely clear, no tickets have been printed or paid for. The IOC has decided along with the organizing committee ... that no tickets will be handed over to the Libyan NOC until the current situation becomes clearer. Quite sensibly, we will retain this 'wait and see' policy until we can be absolutely certain the the tickets can be used correctly. However, we remain committed to allowing athletes from whatever country to participate in the Games."

The imagined spectacle of Moammar Gadhafi floating in to London to watch his teams take part in the Games rather disturbed the sensibilities of a senior government figure in Britain, perhaps forgetting that the man is subject to an international travel ban. And the entire absurdity was put into perspective when a spokesman for the National Libyan Transitional Council had his say:
"It is astonishing that while the whole world is unified against the vile acts that Gadhafi and his family are carrying out, we see that the Olympic Committee is still trying to deal with them."
Isn't it? And aren't they something else again? Resolutely irrelevant.

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Twisted Plots

Turkey's abandonment of Israel as a long-time ally in the Middle East and as a member of NATO, an aspiring member of the European Union transpired as it turned toward warmer relations with Iran and with Syria. Turkey's altered opinion of Hamas and Hezbollah as perfectly acceptable governments-in-waiting, and not proxy Islamist militias whose place in Iran's plans for the future where it sees itself as the new leader of Islam, alternates nicely with Turkey's past under the Ottoman Empire.

But it's alarming for any country to suddenly begin to notice thousands of desperately fleeing citizens of a neighbouring country's population flooding across the border, clamouring for humanitarian aid. It's a costly enterprise for any government to take up its humanitarian responsibility to give aid and comfort to those who flee the armoured wrath of a tyrannical state. And the civil unease that gave voice to the protests against the tyranny speaks of a danger of inciting similar action in one's own population.

Here is Turkey, at first prepared to temporarily host several thousands of desperate refugees, fleeing brutal violence from Syria's leader, an erstwhile friend and ally in a new alliance, even if of fairly recent vintage. The Islamist government of Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan shares some common issues with the Syrian rebels, some of whom were identified as members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Prime Minister Erdogan seems not to think so highly now of Bashar al-Assad, nor of his brother Maher, with his fearsome "savage" reputation of putting the boots to protests. Helicopter gunships and tanks firing live ammunition seem to him more appropriate in defense of the Palestinians in Gaza. But even Gazans aren't being slaughtered and raped, in his dawning realization, the way Syrian Sunni Muslims are by the Alawite regime.

The Turkish authorities on the one hand are not permitting international reporters access to the refugees, nor is Amnesty International able to interview any of them for first-hand information on what has been occurring. Turkey has no wish to have the West alarmed enough to become involved, to have NATO stretch its resources further than it already has in Libya, for its militant presence in Arab and Muslim countries is not attractive to Turkey.

The peculiar circumstances whereby the Turkish "charity", IHH has decided to pull the Mavi Marmara out of leading "Freedom Flotilla 2", is another bit of a puzzle, claiming that Turkish port authorities have withheld the required permits to enable the Mavi Marmara to sail along with the flotilla representing yet again its flagship. Despite which, ships from France, Greece, Spain, the U.S., probably Ireland and possibly Canada are determined to carry on.

And rumours that Turkey may send some of its military across the border to protect those Syrian refugees fleeing further punishment by Syria have yet to be verified. Should that occur, what is to be made of it, that Turkey will have chosen, without invitation, to enter a neighbouring sovereign country, one whose president has ignored its own prime minister's urgent recommendations to ease the conflict and institute reforms?

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