Daily Roundup Feb 12, 2008
After the Read More! Michael Totten describes what efforts are being made to change the authoritarian culture of Iraq. Christopher Hitchen, who's already an atheist, goes fire and brimestone with British proposals for Sharia. Which Presidential candidate has got a poster of Che Guevara displayed prominently in a Houston campaign office? The Middle East Strategy at Harvard looks at Israel's choices in Gaza. The Danes have arrested men suspected of plotting to kill the cartoonists who drew likenesses of Mohammed. A Marine whose last deployment in Iraq involved heavy combat now finds the place a whole lot more quiet. Evan Coyne Maloney is trying to get the word out about his film, Indoctrinate U. What secrets did the recently arrested Chinese spy steal? Nancy Pelosi gives her assessment of the Surge. Is the Senate voting to impose a UN-inspired tax on the United States? Hate Speech codes go international. Plus, a partially mummified body is found in an Arizona bathtub.
Michael Totten writes: "Before getting into the ethics of policing and warfare, Lieutenant Montgomery discussed weapon safety. "Don't point your weapon at anything you don't intend to shoot," he said to the Iraqis seated in front of him. He said that with a straight face. The Iraqis listened and kept straight faces of their own as if they were actually taking him seriously. ... But the Marines drive the point home over and over again anyway. The Iraqis know what they're supposed to do. They know how to do it even if they don't want to do it. At some point, though, they might say enough after accidentally shooting each other too many times and decide it's time to implement those safety regulations they've heard so much about."
From what I've heard, the key to institutionalizing changes to Iraq lies in changing the UN-designed electoral system away from the "closed party list", which has led to the creation of ethnically-based parties in Baghdad, to electing officials by districts or provinces. The grassroots based movements can't elect their leaders to local public office because of the deficiencies in the current electoral code.
Christopher Hitchens is in full cry at Slate. "Picture the life of a young Urdu-speaking woman brought to Yorkshire from Pakistan to marry a man—quite possibly a close cousin—whom she has never met. He takes her dowry, beats her, and abuses the children he forces her to bear. She is not allowed to leave the house unless in the company of a male relative and unless she is submissively covered from head to toe. Suppose that she is able to contact one of the few support groups that now exist for the many women in Britain who share her plight. What she ought to be able to say is, 'I need the police, and I need the law to be enforced.' But what she will often be told is, 'Your problem is better handled within the community.' And those words, almost a death sentence, have now been endorsed and underwritten—and even advocated—by the country's official spiritual authority."
Watch this Fox video closely and notice the Che Guevara poster displayed in Barack Obama's Houston campaign office. Don Surber says, "But it is a good thing he did not campaign like this in Florida. Some Cuban-Americans might take exception to having Obamaniacs idolizing a terrorist and confidante of the dictator Fidel Castro."
Robert Freedman at the Middle East Strategy at Harvard looks at the three ways Israel can stop rocket fire from Gaza. "1. Continuation of the current policy, which involves attacks on those firing the rockets, selected assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, and periodic cutting off of energy and other supplies to Gaza. 2. Negotiations with Hamas to end the rocket fire; and 3. An all-out assault on Gaza, after proper diplomatic preparations, aimed at destroying the political and military infrastructures of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and eliminating their ability to hold Israeli cities hostage to rocket fire." He sadly concludes that "an Israeli ultimatum followed by a full-scale attack on Gaza would appear to be Israel’s best option for stopping the rocket attacks."
The sequence of events which led to the development of a terrorist state in Gaza began as an effort to create a Palestinian one which could embark upon the Roadmap to Peace. But despite that optimistic characterization, it took the process on the road to war. The media can spin perception. But factual events spin the world on its axis. The only way out, if there is still a way out, is for international diplomacy to return to its senses and see the farcical state in Gaza for what it is. If it cannot be neutralized by forceful diplomatic effort, this monster child will pull its parents into its maw.
It's a seemingly crazy world. The "Danish police said Tuesday they have arrested three people suspected of plotting to kill one of the 12 cartoonists behind the Prophet Muhammad drawings that sparked a deadly uproar in the Muslim world two years ago," according to the Associated Press. And this while a Canadian Human Rights Commission simultaneously investigates McLean's for having the temerity to reprint the cartoons. But only seemingly crazy. Underlying the issue of the cartoons is the deadly serious question of whether the West is at cultural war with Islam. But since the public can't talk about the possibility of a cultural war, it talks about the cartoons. Which is funny in a way.
The Marine Corps News reports how Cpl. Joseph T. Hand, who was pulled injured men from a mined vehicle and re-enlisted expecting to find more combat, notes “this deployment is a lot quieter ... It is cool to come back and see how the area has changed.” But it didn't change by itself, it cost. During his last deployment, Hand’s platoon lost six Marines and one Navy Corpsman. "It is good to come back and see that their work has paid off," said Hand.
The Indoctrinate U film site says: "We know there is a vast audience for this film. But commercial distributors -- the executives who decide what films go into theaters -- don't. So unless we can prove to them that this audience exists -- that you want to see it, Indoctrinate U might not come to a theater near you. All you have to do is sign up to see the film if it comes to your area ... we'll attempt to arrange local screenings in every metro area where 500 people have signed up."
He's got a cool map of places where screenings are scheduled. This is the kind of gig that rebels and counter-culture people did before they they got all serious and ran public office. Abbie Hoffman once put the words "Steal This" on the cover of his book. Well maybe "Watch This" is a equivalent call of defiance in the 21st century.
Although I can't post the link because its subscription only, STRATFOR believes Dongfan Chun was exposed to the B-1 Bomber, the Shuttle and the C-17 projects. "Chung supposedly operated for almost 30 years. If true, either he was very good or U.S. counterintelligence was very bad — or both. In any case, this is a cautionary tale. How many out there are feeding information to China on projects so black that U.S. citizens may never hear of them?"
Commentary Magazine's Peter Wehner looks at Nancy Pelosi's assessment of the Surge. "On Sunday Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the success of the “surge” in Iraq. “Are you not worried, though, that all the gains that have been achieved over the past year might be lost?” Blitzer asked. “There haven’t been gains, Wolf,” Pelosi replied. “The gains have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure.”
Of course there was reconciliation under Saddam, if that's what you want to call the domination by one ethnic group over another. Although I wouldn't make too much of it, a disturbing number of public figures are willing to confuse simple immobility for harmony. When Rowan Williams talks about "increasing social cohesion" by allowing different cultural groups to adopt their own peculiar institutions so each can lead separate existences he speaks of it as a condition to be desired.
Auden's most accurate parallel to the current crisis may not be his often quoted poem, "September 1, 1939" but his "In Memory of William Butler Yeats".
In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Accuracy in Media calls attention to the "Global Poverty Act" sponsored by Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Richard Lugar. "The legislation would commit the U.S. to spending 0.7 percent of gross national product on foreign aid, which amounts to a phenomenal 13-year total of $845 billion over and above what the U.S. already spends," which is the benchmark set by the UN.
My only question is whether the US taxpayer gets the right to deduct from the contribution the cost of maintaining the global peace, maintaining and operating the GPS system and enforcing the UN armistice on the Korean Peninsula among others? I am sure the answer is, "no".
Meanwhile, Hate Speech codes have gone international. The BBC reports that "Arab countries have agreed to allow punishment of satellite channels deemed to have offended Arab leaders or national or religious symbols. At a meeting in Cairo called by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a charter was adopted allowing authorities to withdraw permits from offending channels. The only country to refuse to endorse the charter was Qatar, the home of leading satellite station al-Jazeera."
The information ministers called "on stations 'not to offend the leaders or national and religious symbols' of Arab countries or 'damage social harmony, national unity, public order or traditional values,'". Rowan Williams would understand.
The strangest things happen behind closed doors. The AP reports that a "partially mummified body was found in a bathtub filled with dirt in an apartment that was stacked to the ceiling with garbage and human waste." The property managers had hired people to clean out an apartment, after the tenants stopped paying rent and then discovered the mummy.
He said the cleaners began by removing garbage and boxes and buckets filled with human waste. When they made their way to the bathroom Friday, they found the bathtub filled with dirt and covered with plastic, a sheet and plywood. When they started shoveling the dirt out, they found the leg of a body and called police, Tranter said.
He described the body as part skeleton and partly mummified, and that it had been there at least several years. "Very unusual, very bizarre," Tranter said. "This guy was literally buried in the bathtub."
It's a good thing the property managers found it. One wonders what would have happened if archaeologists in the far future had discovered the site, in the manner described in the Motel of the Mysteries, in which scholars in a distant time try to reconstruct our present-day civilization from what they find in a motel. It's amazing to think how much of what we know about the past is based on what we deduce from the slender evidence that survives.
And just think: the people who lived in the apartment where the mummy was found are now living somewhere else.