daily archive: 10/10/2005
Working for Satan
Al-Qaida calling on all jobless video editors to enlist.
Al Qaeda has put job advertisements on the Internet asking for supporters to help put together its Web statements and video montages, an Arabic newspaper reported.
The London-based Asharq al-Awsat said on its Web site this week that al Qaeda had "vacant positions" for video production and editing statements, footage and international media coverage about militants in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Chechnya and other conflict zones where militants are active.
The paper said the Global Islamic Media Front, an al Qaeda-linked Web-based organisation, would "follow up with members interested in joining and contact them via email".
The paper did not say how applicants should contact the Global Islamic Media Front.
Al Qaeda supporters widely use the Internet to spread the group's statements through dozens of Islamist sites where anyone can post messages. Al Qaeda-linked groups also set up their own sites, which frequently have to move after being shut by Internet service providers.
The advertisements, however, could not be found on mainstream Islamist Web sites where al Qaeda and other affiliate groups post their statements.
Asharq al-Awsat said the advert did not specify salary amounts, but added: "Every Muslim knows his life is not his, since it belongs to this violated Islamic nation whose blood is being spilt. Nothing should take precedence over this."
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Pakistan is Devastated
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I wanted you to know that you were one of the first posters that caught my eye on "that other blog." Your passion and your anger touched me. I recognised that you needed justice for a terrible deed, revenge because no revenge had been taken, and righteousness because there isn't very much around. I respect those principles. Your outrageousness I often ignored because I realised that it was an attention-grabber. I couldn't stand to see people bullying you though, because you made yourself an easy target so much of the time. I wanted people to see your words with their hearts and not take them literally. I think what grabbed my attention the most is how "controversial" you were, you would make some outrageous remark and twenty-five people would jump on you. I just thought it was unfair, is all.
I still think it unfair when people gang up and bully you and I'm glad you're here where you're not bullied. However, since bloggie became your bloggie too, I've seen behaviour that I hadn't seen here before. I see insults, I see ugly baiting, I see name-calling, I see all sorts of language that disgusts me and I was put in a position to actually have to ask a gentleman to please act like one. And I didn't have to do it just once.
bigel, I write this addressed to you, because I consider you a friend and I take the liberty to address you as one. But this is not just for you.
I don't know what happens to some of us when we argue online. We feel like we must insult each other, call each other names, for what purpose? Let's say that we were having this same argument at a work picnic or a family barbecue. Would we be calling our co-workers or cousins names like "kapo" and "collaborator" and "fucking scumbag" and "filthy subhuman piece of shit" and be screaming and making fools of ourselves?
As I've repeated to the point of snoring, I believe in free expression. I also assume that free expression comes with self-respect and respect for others. Bloggie is a place where people meet to "type about things", not an excuse to leave our manners at home.
So when you're ready to respond to some terribly-horribly-incredibly-stupid comment, please dip your tongue into your brain before you speak, as my gramma says, and please don't yell. I'm sensitive to yelling, my mom yells a lot and I can't stand it.
And you know something? I hate to have to jump in to calm spirits or admonish people, I mean, we're not little kids. I never thought I'd have to tell people to please not yell "F*CKING C*NT!" at each other. It makes me feel like an old person and it makes me feel like a schoolteacher. Come to think of it, it makes me feel like a bartender and I'm not a bartender, I'm just your average blogger.
Anyway, I love you all. And I love this place, even though it gets on my nerves, and yours too I'm sure, quite often.
bigel, thanks for letting me complain on your shoulder.
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Indonesia Outrage! Bashir gets further 30-day cut in prison sentence
are just loving provoking and needling our good Australian friends by continuously cutting the Bali murderers' sentences. I spit on Indonesia. Such disgusting bastards. As Richard at Hyscience asks, if Indonesia can be so quick
to request the death penalty for young Australian women caught with small amounts of drugs that they're probably innocent of smuggling, why can't they be harsh on terrorists?
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Scenes from Guangzhou
EastSouthWestNorth has a simultaneously delicious and heartbreaking photo series about life on the Chinese street: Street Scenes in Guangzhou
In Taishan (Guangzhou), a despondent single mother climbed up the Haizhu Bridge because her child is terminally ill. The police climbed up a ladder to dissuade her.
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It's Columbus Day!
Or: Holy Cow, It's Columbus Day?!
I just discovered it was not only Canadian Thanksgiving today, but also (!) Columbus Day
by trying to call my bank and bitch about a spurious charge. (They charged me a $2 ATM fee for a normal cash register transaction-what the hey?). So, Happy Columbus Day, everybody!
Celebrate Columbus Day, because Chief Big Phony, Ward Churchill, hates it!
Very high on the list of those expressions of non-indigenous sensibility which contribute to the perpetuation of genocidal policies against Indians are the annual Columbus Day celebration, events in which it is baldly asserted that the process, events, and circumstances described above are, at best, either acceptable or unimportant. More often, the sentiments expressed by the participants are, quite frankly, that the fate of Native America embodied in Columbus and the Columbian legacy is a matter to be openly and enthusiastically applauded as an unrivaled "boon to all mankind". Undeniably, the situation of American Indians will not — in fact cannot — change for the better so long as such attitudes are deemed socially acceptable by the mainstream populace. Hence, such celebrations as Columbus Day must be stopped. (in "Bringing the Law Back Home")
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Don't worry, the Brits aren't in any danger of acquiring a spine
This Telegraph Opinion piece points out something that was non-obvious to me: that the person who lambasted Iran for being complicit in the murders of British soldiers in Iraq was speaking out of turn. Britain wasn't trying to send Tehran a message, it was trying to appease Tehran, and this guy spoiled the whole thing.
We need more of him!
The Telegraph's editorial is a sorely-needed effort to insert some backbone into Britain's Persian dealings, and while it's unlikely to succeed with Jack "inconceivable" Straw, it's worth trying and they're commendable for doing it. Now we know the truth about Iran, we must act
It was not the outcome the Foreign Office had been planning. When it was announced early last week that a senior British diplomat in Baghdad was flying back to London to give a briefing on Iraq's constitutional referendum, the general expectation in Whitehall was that the following day's headlines would focus exclusively on whether sufficient numbers of Iraqis would turn out to validate the exercise.
Imagine the surprise, then, of Jack Straw and his officials the following morning when they opened their newspapers to discover that the future constitutional arrangements for Iraq had been completely superseded by official British confirmation that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were behind the deadly attacks that have recently claimed the lives of eight British soldiers.
For the past two years it has been a Foreign Office mantra that not a word should be uttered that could in any way be construed as criticising the Iranian government. Having voiced his last-minute opposition to the invasion of Iraq, Mr Straw had taken it upon himself to find a "negotiated solution" to the West's stand-off with Teheran over its clandestine nuclear programme as an alternative to military confrontation.
Indeed, when The Sunday Telegraph two weeks ago revealed that agents working for the Revolutionary Guards had linked up with the Iraqi groups responsible for the attacks on British troops, the Foreign Office continued to insist that there was no firm evidence.
But now the cat is out of the bag. Not realising the sensitivity that Mr Straw attaches to Britain's dealings with Teheran, the unfortunate diplomat unwittingly strayed from his referendum brief and started laying into the Iranians with a gusto not seen in the British diplomatic service for decades. The Iranians, said the diplomat, were colluding with Sunni Muslim insurgent groups in southern Iraq. They were providing them with deadly terrorist technology that has been perfected by the Iranian-funded Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon against the Israeli army. And their motivation was to deter Britain from insisting that Teheran abandon its controversial nuclear programme. "It would be entirely natural that they would want to send a message 'don't mess with us'. It would not be outside the policy parameters of Teheran."
This is diplomat-speak for, if Britain wants to confront Iran over its nuclear weapons programme, then Iran feels entitled to blow up young British soldiers.
The off-message tone of the unnamed diplomat's comments sent shock-waves through the oak-panelled walls of the Foreign Office. "It was all very amusing," said one official. "For years diplomats have been under strict instructions not to say anything in public that might upset the Iranians. And then someone gives it to them straight between the eyes."
Perversely, this undiplomatic bout of straight-talking may turn out to have done Mr Straw and the Foreign Office an enormous favour. By baldly stating what the Iranians are really up to in southern Iraq, the diplomat has freed his employers from the obligation of persisting with the charade of constructive engagement with a regime whose only interest in construction appears to be directed at building an atom bomb.
The policy of kowtowing to the Iranians goes back a long way. It started in the late 1980s when Sir Geoffrey Howe, the then foreign secretary, attempted to establish a constructive dialogue with the mullahs in what proved a futile attempt to persuade Teheran to free British hostages in Lebanon. As part of this policy, the British government took the shameful decision to drop its claim that the Iranians had masterminded the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in December 1988, even though British intelligence uncovered significant evidence of Iranian involvement.
Fast forward to 2005, and the British Government continues to play the supplicant while Iran continues to do as it pleases. For the past two years, Mr Straw and his French and German colleagues have argued that the best way to persuade the Iranians to give up their nuclear programme is to pursue a "negotiated solution". As the Foreign Secretary insisted earlier this year, it was "inconceivable" that the US and Britain would take military action against Teheran.
Mr Straw's pacifist tendencies were music to the mullahs' ears, so much so that they expressed their gratitude by breaking the seals at the Isfahan nuclear processing plant and resumed their uranium enrichment programme. This action alone should have convinced the European negotiators to activate their long-standing threat to report Iran to the Security Council for its persistent failure to cooperate with the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog body.
But that was far too confrontational for Foreign Office sensitivities and, at the request of Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, the Europeans gave Iran one last chance to comply. That was in July. Since then, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new Iranian president, has gone out of his way to humiliate both the Europeans and the IAEA.
When Ahmadinejad addressed the UN general assembly last month, far from offering a compromise on the nuclear issue, he laid into the US and its allies, including Britain, accusing them of sponsoring terrorism. Mr Straw's response? To reassure the Iranians that the crisis between Iran and the West would "not be resolved by military means, let's be clear about that". And even when the IAEA finally agreed to refer Iran to the security council, the timing and manner of reporting Iran was deliberately left open "to allow room for more negotiation", as one IAEA official explained.
Mr ElBaradei's disinclination to make Iran fulfil its international obligations is, of course, one of the reasons that he has been awarded the Nobel peace prize, a decision that will have the mullahs falling about with laughter in Teheran this weekend. This, after all, was the same ElBaradei who said he had no evidence that Libya was building an atom bomb until Colonel Gaddafi saw the light after the Iraq war and publicly renounced his nuclear weapons programme.
Certainly, the longer the West prevaricates over Iran, the more inclined the Iranians are to think they can get their way by resorting to the tactics of the bully. The Iranians clearly do not share Mr Straw's aversion to military action: the moment we try to call them to account, they kill and maim our soldiers in southern Iraq.
With the help of last week's unscripted remarks by that diplomat, Britain and its European allies should face up to the reality of dealing with modern Iran and accept that their policy of appeasement towards the mullahs now lies in shreds.
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Republicans: they get things done, no whining
is a must-read about Mississippi governor Haley Barbour's response to Hurricane Katrina. The contrast with Louisiana governer Kathleen Blanco couldn't be clearer.
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Time for accountability at the Pentagon
As Congress commendably strives to bring accountability and standards to the Pentagon's treatment of detainees, the Pentagon's mandarins are fighting Congress vigorously. This piece at the Weekly Standard shows why they're wrong, and McCain's proposed reforms are the right way forward for the US military. One big problem I have with the Pentagon not having legislated standards from the people's representatives for detainee treatment is that someone will inevitable go too far, and as soon as the media uproar swells, the soldier who didn't realize he or she was crossing the line will be made to pay the price, with a court-martial, the penalties flowing therefrom, and the people at the top never becoming accountable for their actions. (In this case, their lack
of action in instituting training and clear guidelines for the men on the ground). Why allow another situation where the Pentagon's bureaucrats have plausible deniability but the gung-ho farm-boy from Oklahoma who thinks he's pleasing his superiors ends up falling on his own sword when his actions become politically inconvenient? This situation can't stand. Leadership starts from the top, and the buck should stop at the top. Since the Pentagon refuses to make this happen, Congress will do it for them.
FOOL ME ONCE, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. When it comes to detaining prisoners seized in Iraq, Afghanistan and on the other fronts of the terror war, the Pentagon's "just-trust-us" mentality continues to undercut American strategy. Thankfully, Congress is at last on the verge of doing what the administration clearly cannot: set clear standards for the treatment of detainees. One Code to Rule Them All
One of the clearest lessons of the Abu Ghraib scandal--as we were reminded this past weekend by the macabre tell-all television appearance of Army Pfc. Lynndie England--is that poorly-trained soldiers make poorly-behaved prison guards. Without standards and without supervision, such stressful situations are a disaster waiting to happen.
Nor is it just an Iraq problem: the weekend before Afghan president Hamid Karzai's visit this past May to the United States, where he was to sign a Strategic Partnership agreement with President Bush, the New York Times ran a front page article detailing the grisly deaths of two Afghan civilians at the hands of U.S. soldiers at Bagram Air Base. The story--based on the Army's own 2,000-page confidential criminal investigation--details repeated incidents of abuse by soldiers at Bagram, clouding what should have been a moment of triumph in U.S.-Afghan relations.
Reviewing even the most cursory history of these incidents, it's apparent that confusion and lack of training--more than premeditated malice or moral failing--have been the determining factors in the misconduct of American soldiers. "They asked many, many times," says one former Bagram interrogator. "The lack of guidance was a source of
frustration for them. My own feeling is that it was never given because nobody wanted to put themselves on the line."
NOT SO, says the Pentagon, which in its prosecution of the soldiers, argues that they should have been aware of the methods codified in the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation (FM 34-52) and used these standards to guide their treatment of detainees.
This line of reasoning, however, is more than a little ironic, given that the Pentagon is itself currently in the midst of a drag-out fight on Capitol Hill to stop Congress from enshrining the same Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for its interrogations. The relevant legislation--proposed by Senator John McCain and supported by a who's who of retired military and intelligence officers--would go a long way toward ending the climate of confusion and uncertainty that has contributed to abuses at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere.
In opposing the legislation, the Pentagon argues that it is not Congress's place to be arbiter of the rules for treatment of detainees, insisting that it alone should wield that power. It also warns, as spokesman Lawrence DiRita put it in a recent op-ed in USA Today, that by establishing a clear standard for interrogations, the amendment would "hamper the country's ability to readily adapt and update interrogation methods from Al Qaeda detainees who we know are trained to resist known interrogation techniques."
NEITHER OF THESE ARGUMENTS ARE PERSUASIVE. First, as supporters of the bill have pointed out, the amendment would do nothing to stop the Defense Department from revising and updating the field manual however and whenever it sees fit. In fact, this is precisely what the Pentagon is already in the midst of doing, adding a new classified annex. Contrary to the E-Ring's dire predictions, the notion that congressional oversight will somehow help terrorists study up and adapt to new interrogation techniques is just wrong.
Second, and more broadly, the well-documented pattern of abuses from Afghanistan to Iraq reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of the Pentagon's prized "ambiguity." Despite the unique challenges posed by the war on terror, the Congress--and Republican conservatives, in particular--should be skeptical when the executive branch says, in effect, "Just trust us." Although it's understandable that the Defense Department would like to act with the maximum freedom of action, it has created a Balkanized set of standards in which different rules apply in different places, which plainly does not work. If ever there were an appropriate object for congressional oversight, this is it.
The consequences of the failure to set a clear standard for the treatment of detainees are plain to see. Again, set aside the obvious impact of Abu Ghraib and consider the less-publicized deaths at Bagram, which created a dangerous irritant in U.S.-Afghan relations. President Karzai, for instance, spent his trip to the United States on the defensive, forced to justify why he was calling for a long-term strategic partnership with Washington--including long-term access by the U.S. military to Afghan bases--in light of the murder of Afghan citizens by American soldiers. We're not only making it easier for our enemies to hate us, but harder for our friends to love us.
Further, the issue of detainee abuse has been a critical factor in the erosion of American support for these distant and frustrating wars here at home. There is broad consensus that the political status quo in the greater Middle East poses huge dangers, but there is equal uncertainty about our ability to achieve long-term reform in the region. Nothing undercuts our moral position here at home more than the issue of abuse.
Lastly, confusion on detainee treatment is also bad for America's soldiers, who deserve clear guidance from their commanders. As a collective letter by several dozen retired general officers noted, the net effect of the current Pentagon policy is that service members have been given conflicting instructions, then "left to take the blame when things went wrong."
Given its management of this issue to date, the Defense Department's sniping at the McCain amendment is off the mark. The proposed legislation is not congressional micro-management, but an entirely proper demand that the Pentagon itself set a clear policy--as it should have done long ago.
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Boycott Israeli Academics?
The Numbers Don't Lie: They're Already Blacklisted
Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91404, Israel.
The number of publications from Israel in the ‘British Medical Journal’ decreases or stagnates from 1984-2004, while it increases over that period in the comparable ‘JAMA-Journal of the American Medical Association’. Similar analyses for publications from Switzerland and Denmark (chosen because these countries are comparable to Israel in size, publication volumes, and academic achievements) show increasing numbers of publications over that period in both journals. These patterns (Israeli publications do not increase over a long period in the British journal, but do, as for the other countries, in the North American journal) look like those reported for ‘Nature’ and ‘Science’ (British and US-based, respectively; Seligmann 2003a,b; available at http://www.spme.net/documentation/bmj.html
). Israeli academics seem to have been unofficially boycotted long before the first calls for an organized boycott, and some data might indicate that such boycott, although until now weaker, might exist also for US-based journals.
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Check Your Email!
While evariste and zorkie are blissfully asleep after a hard day's trial, all around the web, on multi-homed networks, packets are madly hopping from one cogent internet backbone to another. The comrades are frantically peering.
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Happy Thanksgiving Day, Canada!
If you're Canadian, please tell us what you're grateful about this year. And have a wonderful holiday!
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