Thursday, August 31, 2006 at 9:52 AMIn the 19 months since I launched this weblog, I have deferred only once to commentary by another columnist on the news of the day: That commentary was on one critical aspect of the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME) initiative, and it was written by my friend and colleague Sir Ronald Sanders (here).
Well, today I’m obliged to defer once again. Because, even though few people outside Washington give a damn, tongues are wagging today about the outing of the person who outed CIA agent Valerie Plame. And yesterday, I read the definitive article on this scandal that has had this city in a tizzy for the past 3 years.
If nothing else, perhaps you recall the spectacle of Karl Rove, the architect of President Bush’s presidency, being compelled to testify before a federal grand jury an unprecedented 5 times to escape indictment for allegedly outing Plame. And that, after he failed to indict Rove, the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, settled for the indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, VP Cheney’s chief of staff, which I wrote about here.
Now comes the stunning revelation that – after years and millions of taxpayer dollars spent investigating this CIA leak (to say nothing of the millions in legal fees people like Rove and Libby (who even lost his job) had to pay) – Richard Armitage, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s deputy, confessed to being the (unwitting) leaker. Moreover, that he confessed his slip of the tongue not only to Powell but also to (Inspector Javert) Fitzgerald long before he began hauling unsuspecting people before his grand jury.
Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Powell never told Bush that no one in the White House was behind this leak – even as liberal media flaks and Democrats were accusing him and his administration of all manner of fascistic and Machiavellian conspiracies (to ruin the lives of anyone who questioned the legitimacy of their march to war against Iraq; namely Plame and her (he’s so vain, he probably thinks the war was about him) husband, Joe Wilson….
I promised to defer, didn’t I?
I disclosed here that Charlie Rose is my favorite TV interviewer. Now it is my pleasure to introduce you to my favorite columnist, Christopher Hitchens. For it is he who has written the definitive article which puts this latest Washington farce into proper perspective. (Although, truth be told, his overzealous support for Bush’s war on terror risks alienating my intellectual affection. But I digress…) Here’s Christopher:
I had a feeling that I might slightly regret the title (“Case Closed“) of my July 25 column on the Niger uranium story. I have now presented thousands of words of evidence and argument to the effect that, yes, the Saddam Hussein regime did send an important Iraqi nuclear diplomat to Niger in early 1999. And I have not so far received any rebuttal from any source on this crucial point of contention. But there was always another layer to the Joseph Wilson fantasy. Easy enough as it was to prove that he had completely missed the West African evidence that was staring him in the face, there remained the charge that his nonreport on a real threat had led to a government-sponsored vendetta against him and his wife, Valerie Plame.
In his July 12 column in the Washington Post, Robert Novak had already partly exposed this paranoid myth by stating plainly that nobody had leaked anything, or outed anyone, to him. On the contrary, it was he who approached sources within the administration and the CIA and not the other way around. But now we have the final word on who did disclose the name and occupation of Valerie Plame, and it turns out to be someone whose opposition to the Bush policy in Iraq has—like Robert Novak’s—long been a byword in Washington. It is particularly satisfying that this admission comes from two of the journalists—Michael Isikoff and David Corn—who did the most to get the story wrong in the first place and the most to keep it going long beyond the span of its natural life.
As most of us have long suspected, the man who told Novak about Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s deputy at the State Department and, with his boss, an assiduous underminer of the president’s war policy. (His and Powell’s—and George Tenet’s—fingerprints are all over Bob Woodward’s “insider” accounts of post-9/11 policy planning, which helps clear up another nonmystery: Woodward’s revelation several months ago that he had known all along about the Wilson-Plame connection and considered it to be no big deal.) The Isikoff-Corn book, which is amusingly titled Hubris, solves this impossible problem of its authors’ original “theory” by restating it in a passive voice:
The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: that the initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.
In the stylistic world where disclosures are gleaned and ironies underscored, the nullity of the prose obscures the fact that any irony here is only at the authors’ expense. It was Corn in particular who asserted—in a July 16, 2003, blog post credited with starting the entire distraction—that:
The Wilson smear was a thuggish act. Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation’s counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score. It is a sign that with this gang politics trumps national security.
After you have noted that the Niger uranium connection was in fact based on intelligence that has turned out to be sound, you may also note that this heated moral tone (“thuggish,” “gang”) is now quite absent from the story. It turns out that the person who put Valerie Plame’s identity into circulation was a staunch foe of regime change in Iraq. Oh, that’s all right, then. But you have to laugh at
the way Corn now so neutrally describes his own initial delusion as one that was “seized on by administration critics.”
What does emerge from Hubris is further confirmation of what we knew all along: the extraordinary venom of the interdepartmental rivalry that has characterized this administration. In particular, the bureaucracy at the State Department and the CIA appear to have used the indiscretion of Armitage to revenge themselves on the “neoconservatives” who had been advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein. Armitage identified himself to Colin Powell as Novak’s source before the Fitzgerald inquiry had even been set on foot. The whole thing could—and should—have ended right there. But now read this and rub your eyes: William Howard Taft, the State Department’s lawyer who had been told about Armitage (and who had passed on the name to the Justice Department)
also felt obligated to inform White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. But Powell and his aides feared the White House would then leak that Armitage had been Novak’s source—possibly to embarrass State Department officials who had been unenthusiastic about Bush’s Iraq policy. So Taft told Gonzales the bare minimum: that the State Department had passed some information about the case to Justice. He didn’t mention Armitage. Taft asked if Gonzales wanted to know the details. The president’s lawyer, playing the case by the book, said no, and Taft told him nothing more.
“[P]laying the case by the book” is, to phrase it mildly, not the way in which Isikoff and Corn customarily describe the conduct of the White House. In this instance, however, the evidence allows them no other choice. But there is more than one way in which a case can be played by the book. Under the terms of the appalling and unconstitutional Intelligence Identities Protection Act (see “A Nutty Little Law,” my Slate column of July 26, 2005), the CIA can, in theory, “refer” any mention of itself to the Justice Department to see if the statute—denounced by The Nation and the New York Times when it was passed—has been broken. The bar here is quite high. Perhaps for that reason, Justice sat on the referral for two months after Novak’s original column. But then, rather late in the day, at the end of September 2003, then-CIA Director George Tenet himself sent a letter demanding to know whether the law had been broken.
The answer to that question, as Patrick Fitzgerald has since determined, is “no.” But there were plenty of senior people who had known that all along. And can one imagine anybody with a stronger motive to change the subject from CIA incompetence and to present a widely discredited agency as, instead, a victim, than Tenet himself? The man who kept the knowledge of the Minnesota flight schools to himself and who was facing every kind of investigation and obloquy finally saw a chance to change the subject. If there is any “irony” in the absurd and expensive and pointless brouhaha that followed, it is that he was abetted in this by so many who consider themselves “radical.”
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.
Copyright 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC
Wednesday, August 30, 2006 at 11:13 AMFinally, Mexico’s president-elect is the unflappable conservative Felipe Calderón…
After he lost in a dead heat to George W. Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Al Gore demanded and got a partial recount of votes that he thought would change the final results. But it did not. And after U.S. Courts affirmed Bush as the duly-elected president of the United States, Gore did the honorable and sensible thing by conceding defeat.
What he could not have known then, however, was that he would become the godfather to sore losers in presidential elections all over the world. Because since 2000, defeated candidates everywhere have demanded and got recounts as a matter of course – no matter their margin of defeat. And the latest, and perhaps most notorious, in the growing rogues gallery of these would-be presidents is the iracible socialist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico.
But, to be fair, if any of Gore’s spawn is his legitimate heir, Obrador is it. After all, like Gore, Obrador lost in a dead heat to the declared winner – Felipe Calderón. And, like Gore, he immediately cried foul – alleging that massive voter fraud, orchestrated by Calderón operatives, cheated him of his victory.
Alas, like Gore’s, Obrador’s recourse to the courts has proved futile. Because, just as the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Gore’s claims of fraud, on Monday, Mexico’s highest electoral court rejected Obrador’s claims and is now expected – on or before 6 September – to affirm Calderón as the duly-elected president of Mexico. Of course, I predicted as much months ago – in this article here – before Obrador launched his Gore-inspired challenge to the initial results.
Unfortunately, unlike Gore, Obrador seems congenitally averse to doing the honorable and sensible thing by conceding defeat. Because, despite the court’s objective declaration that he is Mexico’s most controversial loser, here’s how Obrador greeted their decision:
Never more will we accept that an illegal and illegitimate government is installed in our country.
Nonetheless, in due course, I suspect Obrador’s more reasonable supporters will tire of his pathetic whining and hollow promises and accept Calderón as their president. I am mindful, however, that even 6 years later die-hard supporters of Al Gore are still pleading to anyone who would listen that Gore was robbed. Therefore, it’s probable that die-hard supports of Obrador will be pleading his case throughout the entirety of Calderón’s presidency.
NOTE: I am genuinely concerned that – instead of encouraging his disappointed and disillusioned supporters to respect the rule of law – as Gore eventually did so eloquently, Obrador (seen here greeting his followers at a “Calderón-nunca!-nunca!” rally on Sunday) will fuel their resentment and create a critical mass of anarchists who may destabilize Mexico for years to come.
After all, Obrador now fancies himself a latter-day President Benito Juarez, who led a roving, “unofficial” presidency from 1863 to 1867. But he seems more likely to emulate Hassan Nasrallah by turning Mexico City, where he once ruled as a populist mayor, into a state within a state – much as Nasrallah did by turning his Hezbollah-controlled areas in Southern Lebanon into a virtually autonomous state. (And we all know how well that worked out.)
Indeed, just as Nasrallah not only undermined the Lebanese government but also provoked a cross-border war with Israel, so too could Obrador undermine the Mexican government and create such economic stagnation and chaos in Mexico city that – instead of tickling across the border into the U.S. – Mexicans will begin crossing in droves.
But let’s hope his bark is far worse than his bite….
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 at 10:53 AMDespite the hype, a weakening Hurricane Ernesto may not have much of an impact on the U.S. after all. Although one would not know that listening to the foreboding utterances of weather forecasters and news anchors as they do their best to manufacture ratings-generating fear about Ernesto’s allusive wrath…
Therefore, in this spirit and given the deluge they’re forecasting for The Bahamas, I urge my fellow Bahamians to begin building your dinghies now! Because we don’t want any of you to be left stranded like those poor black folks in New Orleans were last year…
ADVISORY: After delivering a glancing blow at Cuba, Hurricane Ernesto – with sustained (category 1) winds between 74-95mph – is headed for South Florida today. Yet he’s generating even more media hysteria than Hurricane Katrina did – with sustained (category 5) winds above 155 mph – when she was making her way to New Orleans a year ago today. Of course, Katrina has everything to do with the way Ernesto and every hurricane will be covered from here to eternity (as if every one is the next Katrina…).
Nonetheless, since I’m obliged to comment on this dubious anniversary, I shall suffice to republish the article I wrote as Katrina was looming off the Gulf Coast last year. Because the calming perspective I offered then – for that certifiably monster storm – is even more fitting for this and, indeed, every hurricane from here to eternity.
In hindsight, many people were offended by my flippant take on the sky-is-falling media coverage. Therefore, I am constrained to point out that nothing I wrote in this article was rendered moot or false by the subsequent devastation of New Orleans. However, I see no point in rehashing all that went so horribly wrong – especially since this has been (and today will be) covered ad nauseam in the media.
(But, if you’re a glutton for Katrina handwringing, click here, here and here for my observations on what went wrong. I assure you that these articles will prove far more insightful and constructive than the flatulence coming out of the mouths of President Bush and his adversaries – adding insult to Katrina’s winds – who are just trying to score political points down in New Orleans today.)
Meanwhile, I hope those in Ernesto’s path and more responsible members of the media will read and take heed:
August 29, 2005
Run For Your Lives, Katrina’s Coming, Katrina’s Coming!Tracking Katrina: A clear and present danger!
TV stations cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom….
Therefore, it was no surprise yesterday that programming on almost every channel in America was interrupted, continually, for “breaking news” on Katrina’s location and to warn people in her path that – as Fred Sanford would always say – “[New Orleans], dis is da BIG ONE!”
Alas, just as Fred’s false alarms became a big joke, so too have annual weather forecasts of the big one become far less foreboding. After all, despite doomsday predictions each year, only 3 out of 22 monster hurricanes (category 5) actually hit America in the 20th Century. And, the last one that was, in fact, worthy of this seasonal hysteria was Hurricane Andrew 13 years ago. (Triskaidekaphobes will no doubt bet their lives that the real reason to be worried this time is because Katrina comes in the 13th year since Andrew. But I digress…)
Indeed, as of this posting, Katrina is a bona-fide category 5 hurricane making a beeline for Louisiana from 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. But, as far as natural disasters go, a hurricane passing through America today should not leave the magnitude of devastation in its wake that drought inflicts upon people in Africa every month, or that the Tsunami washed over the unsuspecting people of Indonesia just last year or, indeed, that hurricanes cause for my people in the Caribbean every year (as Hurricane Ivan’s decimation of Grenada demonstrated so poignantly last season).
Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters and other emergency management resources to gauge and withstand hurricanes with virtually no loss of life. Nevertheless, how well local authorities enforce evacuation orders and how many daring fools ignore them (and go sight seeing in the eye of the storm) shall determine Katrina’s human casualties.
On the other hand, wind gusts and biblical floods will probably cause catastrophic damage to property. But, as the building boom following Andrew proved, even such damage presents economic opportunities that some see as the silver lining in the dark clouds on the horizon. (Hurricane season for Home Depot is like Christmas season for Toys R Us. And, if you think I’m being too cynical, please note how often the damage from this hurricane is expressed in terms of dollars as opposed to lives lost….)
Floridians show Louisianans what to expect the day after Katrina…
So, notwithstanding the TV coverage, we should maintain some perspective here: A watery Pompeii New Orleans shall not become…for too long at any rate. The waters will recede and clean-up will be a bitch; but thank God for insurance…”ya’ll do have insurance, don’t ya?”
NOTE: Let’s hope Katrina’s
winds are strong enough to finally blow away one of those wannabe Dan Rather reporters (Anderson Cooper) who seem to think it’s necessary (and heroic) to go out in the hurricane to report the obvious whilst holding on to a pole for dear life….
Monday, August 28, 2006 at 10:50 AMYesterday, Palestinian kidnappers demonstrated once again that, unlike their bloodthirsty Muslim brothers in Iraq, they are no crazed Islamic jihadists who’d rather chop off the heads of their captives than release them for ransom. Perhaps you recall how Osama bin Laden’s No.2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, notoriously reprimanded al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (assassinated), not for beheading western captives, but for broadcasting these ritual sacrifices. After all, this made their holy warriors look like simple barbarians…. Whereas, anyone familiar with the modus operandi of Palestinian jihadists knew that it was only a matter of time and money before the release of two Fox News journalists, Steve Centanni (60) and Olaf Wiig (36), was negotiated.
Nevertheless, it must be noted that – if there is a proper way for a despairing spouse or family members of a person taken hostage to behave under such grave circumstances – the behaviour of Centanni’s brother and Wiig’s wife was exemplary. Indeed, it’s arguable that their measured and informed public entreaties were more persuasive in negotiating the release of their loved ones than any behind-the-scenes political pressure.
Moreover, experts on Middle East culture suggest that those pleading for the release of Centanni (left) and Wiig (right) ensured their welfare by referring to them as “guests”, not captives. This supposedly appealed to the kidnappers’ pride in “Palestinian hospitality”. (Never mind that kidnapping these men and forcing them to “convert” to Islam at gunpoint made a mockery of any notion of hospitality, even in Palestine….)
But the most mercenary Palestinian jihadists had to have been chastened somewhat by public pleas in which Centanni’s brother and Wiig’s wife not only conveyed appropriate sympathy for Palestinian grievances against Israel but also stressed how indispensable these captive journalists were to redressing them.
However, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya (here with Wiig’s wife Anita Naught to his right) had to have been almost as relieved as their family members were that these famous hostages were released unharmed. After all, if they were killed, the PR blow to the Palestinian cause would have been even more devastating than the PR hit Israel took after its smart bombs killed scores of women and children in South Lebanon. (Actually, many political analysts cite this incident as the tipping point when Israel lost popular support for its offensive against Hezbollah.)
Though, ultimately, all Palestinians who lobbied for their release must have felt tremendously gratified when Centanni and Wiig expressed these kind and instructive words after their ordeal:
I hope that this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover the story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful and kindhearted….The world needs to know more about them. [Steve Centanni]
That would be a great tragedy for the people of Palestinians if their story does not get told….You guys need us on the streets. [Olaf Wiig]
NOTE: Even I am not so cynical as to suspect that the Palestinian government ordered these kidnapping. Especially since kidnapping is as much a thriving private enterprise in Palestine as it is in Iraq. (Remember Jill Carroll? Click here). And, more often than not, the pay-off is considerable for these hostage-trading bandits. (In fact, reliable sources indicate that former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi paid Iraqi kidnappers $1 million for the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena last year, which I commented on here. )
Therefore (and ponder this), I think most Palestinians regard this kidnapping as more of a PR faux pas than a crime. Moreover, far from capturing and prosecuting the kidnappers for this dastardly act, I suspect Palestinian authorities actually negotiated on their behalf for FOX News CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes to pay a handsome ransom for Centanni and Wiig’s release….
Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 10:57 AMOr does OJ have to die as well before some nut confesses to his crimes…?
NOTE: Don’t give up OJ….Keep looking for that pathetic SOB who killed your ex-wife and her boy toy. Incidentally, why do you suppose that – ever since those murders – you’ve been cutting yourself so much everytime you shave?
Saturday, August 26, 2006 at 11:56 AM
Friday, August 25, 2006 at 10:06 AM
…If a man seeks the office of [ bishop], he desires a good work.
The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, modest, hospitable, good at teaching; not a drinker, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous…
Servants, in the same way, must be reverent, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for money….Their wives in the same way must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things….
For those who have served well gain for themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. [1 Timothy 3:1]
On Wednesday, at the 94th International General Assembly of the Church of God of Prophecy in Nashville, Tennessee, my brother, Dr Joseph Leon Hall (seen here with Barbara – his wife and partner in their Life Changing Ministries), was ordained a “newly deemed Bishop”. And, because proud looks are an abomination unto the Lord, members of the Hall family witnessed this solemn occasion with sublime reverence as he consecrated his life to a higher order of service to the Almighty God.
I must confess, however, that over the years my religious cynicism compelled me to try in vain to test my brother’s faith with intellectual queries, much as the Devil tried in vain to tempt Jesus Christ with earthly pleasures after he had fasted forty days and forty nights. Therefore, no one is more qualified than I am to testify to the fact that no one meets the criteria for the office of bishop (as set out in Timothy) more than my brother does.
And so, it is with profound humility and respect that I bring you the good news of his ordination….
I would be remiss, however, if I did not acknowledge the crisis of leadership facing the worldwide Christian congregation. But it would be unseemly for me to rain on my brother’s parade by harping on religious malaise.
Instead, I cite this crisis only to assure the world of what the people my brother has ministered to know quite well; namely, that he has always walked with the Passion of the Christ, comforting the afflicted every step of the way. And, moreover, that just as Jesus afflicted comfortable leaders – who coveted glory for themselves above glory to God, so too has my brother afflicted the leaders of his Church – who at times seemed more inspired by the passion of the dollar than by the passion of the Christ.
Therefore, this ordination merely vests him with the institutional authority that he has exercised in the honorable service of the Lord for years. But now, his moral rectitude and commitment to genuine fellowship will be felt not only amongst those he ministers to but also within the leadership councils of the Church of God of Prophecy.
Not a moment too soon, and to God be the glory!
PERSONAL NOTE: It seems the fulfillment of his biblical fate that – after being sold out by church leaders in The Bahamas – my brother Joseph had to relocate all the way up in Cleveland, Tennessee to be recognized as the special servant of God he is.
My family is blessed with a number of very successful people, including our sister, Dr Maureen Hall MD, who I paid tribute to here recently. And I have no doubt that we have all made our parents exceedingly proud. Yet none of us has any doubt that if our Mummy and Daddy were alive today, Joe’s ordination would have been the proudest moment of their lives.
Therefore, I pray that God will have mercy on the leaders of the Church of God of Prophecy in The Bahamas for conspiring to deny them this life experience.
But the Lord works in mysterious ways. And “all things work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
Thursday, August 24, 2006 at 11:07 AMThis is Kola Boof. Read her autobiography, Diary of a Lost Girl, and I’m sure you’ll agree that she’s worthy of acclaim as a modern-day hybrid of Mata Hari and Nefertiti.
Of course, I appreciate that you’ve probably seen her all over Cable TV this week flogging this sensational book, which the media would have you believe is only about her relationship with Osama bin Laden. And, given the incredulous attitude of almost all of her interviewers, you can be forgiven the impression that Kola is as much the former mistress of bin Laden as John Mark Karr is the murderer of JonBenet Ramsey.
But where my media fraudometer led me to dismiss Karr and other wannabe celebrities – like James Frey – as psycho-mendacious creeps, it compelled me to believe every titillating, sadomasochistic detail of Kola’s story. And here’s why:
I don’t mind admitting that memoir secrets of her boudoir appeal to my discriminating prurient intellect; especially if they include socially-redeeming insights. For example:
That, like so many Christian zealots, Osama the Muslim zealot is a hypocrite who demands moral rectitude and asceticism (even self-sacrifice) from his followers; yet – before American bombs forced him to become a cave dweller – he indulged in many of the western vices he preached against and was, in fact, a cussing , rock-n-roll-loving (Van Halen) , pot-smoking sex pervert (on his holier days…)!
That, like Southern slave masters who shunned their lily-white wives for more gratifying sex with their black American slaves, Osama shunned his Arab wives for more sublime carnal pleasures with his black lover Kola.
That, Osama was so obsessed with the sexual prowess of black women that – in addition to drawing up plans for terrorist attacks against the West – he also drew up a plan for a fatwa against (i.e., the assassination of) Bobby Brown so that he could whisk his wife Whitney Houston off to a Sudanese mansion – furnished with such opulence that would make Queen Nefertiti blush. To be fair to Osama, however, this was all before Whitney withered before our eyes from an angelic beauty into a fiendish-looking crack-smoking skank.
But I wonder if this Jew-hating, self-annointed Caliph knows that, had he succeeded, he would merely have emulated the craven scheme perfected by the Jewish King David – who ordered Uriah to certain death in battle so that he could have his way with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba….)
I could go on, but that would defeat the purpose of having you buy the book. Nonetheless, consider this:
In recent years, you’ve probably seen many men on TV declaiming on bin Laden’s character, motives and personal life – as if they were his spurned lover. And none of them has been granted more dubious credibility in this respect than the glib Peter Bergen. But here’s how Kola addressed his putative expertise in a recent interview:
BRUCE DUNNE: Peter Bergen, a biographer of Bin Laden, has called you delusional. He says that Osama Bin Laden was never in Morocco in 1996–in fact, I believe he claims that Bin Laden has never been to Morocco period.
KOLA BOOF: Peter Bergen doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but I’m sure that the media would take the word of a white man who’s never met Osama against the word of a Black woman who used to share his bed.
The fact is…Osama Bin Laden was in Morocco in 1996, he was in Afghanistan, he lived in Sudan, he went to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Egypt that year. He went to Iran for a wedding. Peter Bergen and none of these know-it-all white men know a damned thing about where Osama was…if they did…the U.S. government would have been able to find Osama back in 1996. So don’t listen to the Arabs and the White men.
BRUCE DUNNE: Peter Bergen says that Bin Laden is a chronic prayer…praying ten or twelve times a day.
KOLA BOOF: That wasn’t true in 1996. Osama prayed on Tuesdays and Thursdays like that…all day Tuesday and Thursday, but not everyday. Bergen never lived with Osama. He’s going by heresay.
Now, here in a nutshell is why I believe Kola’s story, and why I urge you to buy her book:
Notwithstanding the shrill TV interviews you may have seen – conducted invariably by prissy-talking Barbies more interested in demeaning Kola as a whore or Osama’s sex slave than in interviewing her about her life, I have read substantive interviews (including this one excerpted above) in which Kola resolutely expresses far greater pride in being an accomplished poet and Sudan’s bestselling novelist than in being bin Laden’s former mistress.
Like Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali – about whom I’ve written numerous articles including this one here – Kola is unabashed about describing herself as a Muslim feminist and liberal democrat who is committed to modernizing the jihadist, misogynistic and racist tenets of Islam.
Finally, I’m especially impressed by the fact that – no matter one’s doubts about her sordid bedroom tales – there’s independent documentation of Kola’s heroic role in procuring arms from Israel for black Sudanese rebels to defend their people against genocidal attacks by government-backed Arab militias (Janjaweed) in Darfur and Southern Sudan; attacks which I wrote about here.
So, click here for Kola’s home page and to buy her book….
NOTE: I’m flattered that so many of you have asked but, frankly, I couldn’t care any less about the billionaire pissing match between Tom Cruise and Paramount’s Sumner Redstone. Therefore, I will not be writing an article on this latest Hollywood spectacle….
Wednesday, August 23, 2006 at 3:40 PMThree weeks ago, I wrote the following in this article titled “Historic vote in DR Congo springs hope for Africa”:
…after 40 years of lurching between dictatorships and Rwanda-style warfare, this African country of 57 million people held its first national elections with such regard for democratic principles that it would make George Washington – the father of American democracy – blush with envy. And, with 32 presidential candidates, 9,709 parliamentary candidates and 25.6m voters, it is certainly understandable that it might take weeks before official results are declared.
Unfortunately, when those results were finally declared on Sunday it sent the Congo lurching right back into Rwanda-style warfare.
Because, notwithstanding reports by UN monitors that the 30 July election was free and fair, opposition parties complained of rampant fraud and intimidation by election officials loyal to President Joseph Kabila. And when Kabila decided to preempt announcement of the official results by touting his victory on national television – despite garnering only 45% of the vote (short of the 50% needed for outright victory) – it’s no surprise that rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was second to Kabila with 20%, suspected him of attempting to thwart a run-off election as mandated by law.
In fact, as Kabila was making his premature victory speech, his presidential guards were mobilizing to disarm rebel fighters loyal to Bemba. And, that’s when all hell broke loose – adding more dead to the 3.8 million people who died during the most recent five-year conflict (1998-2003) this election was intended to settle, and to the many millions more who died during this country’s 46-year struggle to honor its name as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nonetheless, latest reports are that, after three days of fighting, UN peacekeeping troops (the largest contingent deployed any where in the world) have managed to quell the clashes and coax the warring factions to cease fire, at least until official results of the October run-off between Kabila and Bemba are declared.
Indeed, like the cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah, this one may simply give these combatants time to regroup to fight another day. And since Kabila’s supporters predominate in the East while Bemba’s predominate in the West, it’s very likely that no matter the results in October, civil war or de facto partition is in store for the DR Congo.
Alas, if I were not forlorn of hope for democracy and sustainable development throughout all of Africa, I would have virtually no hope at all….
Tuesday, August 22, 2006 at 5:41 AMIslamic fanatics have Westerners so spooked that the people tasked with ensuring our national security are now imputing real-life significance to Islamic prophecies. Because it seems some of our intelligence experts actually bought the Cassandra warning that today, August 22, marks a holy day of reckoning for Shiite Muslims, which “could correspond to the end of the world”. Accordingly, they proffered analysis assuming that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on matters of state, would choose today to defy the West’s demand for Iran to give up its nuclear-weapons program and ignite the fires of Armageddon. (How? They did not say….)
Of course, since these are the same intelligence experts who bought the ruse that Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of WMDs, no one should be surprised that their analysis is short on facts and not even persuasive as a theoretical exercise. In fact, just to rub their ignorance in their faces, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei chose yesterday merely to restate the following wholly predictable decree:
The Islamic Republic of Iran has made its decision and, in the issue of nuclear energy, will continue its path powerfully… and it will receive the sweet fruits of its efforts.
I don’t think the world will end today, but let me hasten to disabuse you of any inclination to take comfort in his stealth reference to “nuclear energy”. After all, the West has good reasons to be up in arms (alas, only rhetorically) because no one believes that oil-rich Iran is continuing down this nuclear path for purely economic (energy) purposes. The Iranians covet nuclear weapons and are determined to have them, as I warned in this article over a year ago.
Meanwhile, our professional spooks seem unaware that it is not only a lunatic fringe of Islamic fundamentalist that is praying for a holy day of reckoning. After all, Christian fundamentalists have been mobilizing for their Judgement Day since the day Christ was crucified. Therefore, instead of alarm, their response to this fateful holy day may well be – in the words of their most famous convert, George W. Bush – “Bring it on!”
However, other experts with a firmer grip of the geopolitical realities we face have propounded that it is Iran’s success as puppet master of Hezbollah’s fight against Israel that has emboldened it to defy the West. But this analysis is equally flawed. Because, as indicated above, Iran’s modus operandi for dealing with the West was established from the time its ruling clerics anointed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as their political mouthpiece.
It’s far more instructive to note that Iran has never been guided or deterred by the patently feckless threats of UN inspections and sanctions; especially since it knows that the French, Russians and Chinese are always willing to break them to suit their own political and economic agendas.
Indeed, it seems clear that Iran is following the path North Korea blazoned to nuclear power. And, far from being irrational in their pursuits, the Iranians have made the rational calculation that only the United States and / or Israel would dare use the only means available to stop them from acquiring nuclear weapons: military force!
But, given the U.S. quagmire in Iraq and Israel’s humiliating defeat by a rag-tag band of Hezbollah fighters, is there any wonder that Iran has not only defied the West but is now sitting in the nuclear catbird seat – grinning like a Cheshire Cat?
NOTE: Here’s how I concluded my analysis of Iran’s looming confrontation with the West in July 2005:
….despite endorsing his policy, it seems unlikely that politically correct (and gun-shy) Europeans – including the UK – will join Bush’s coalition of the willing if he decides to use force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Yet, military confrontation with Iran seems inevitable. Because, unlike the North Koreans, the Iranians do not appear to be engaged in a game of chicken just as a bargaining ploy for more food. And, even if Bush and the Europeans determine that it is politically prohibitive to use force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the Israelis might deem it a matter of national
survival to launch preemptive strikes unilaterally – just as they did in 1981 when Saddam was poised to go nuclear.
In addition, click here to read why I think Israel would be justified to launch a preemptive strike against Iran.
ENDNOTE: For the record, I do not believe that Iranian clerics and Ahmadinejad are any more suicidal than Osama bin Laden. Therefore, I do not believe they want nuclear weapons to fulfill some religious end-of-the-world prophecy. Just like bin Laden, they are committed to an Islamic ideology, which calls for the destruction of the West, instead of Islamic theology, which requires them to live in peace.
I do not believe the Iranians would ever ignite a nuclear war – by launching a direct attack against Israel or the U.S. However, I fear that – just as they were happy to funnel weapons and money to an amorphous faction like Hezbollah to launch attacks against Isarael – they would be all too happy to supply nuclear weapons to terrorists to use against us…with their covert blessings.
Indeed, consider this secular version of Armageddon: Iran develops nuclear weapons – as I expect it will. Then a nuclear bomb, which could be concealed in a briefcase, is detonated in London or New York City killing hundreds of thousands of people. What would we do – when Iran vehemently denies any role in this dastardly deed? After all, North Korea could be responsible….
And, can’t you just see the schadenfreude on the faces of the French, Russians and Chinese…?
Monday, August 21, 2006 at 11:03 AMThe plaintive theme of the 16th International AIDS Conference concerned the increasing incidence of HIV infections amongst women. Indeed, speaker after speaker exhorted women – through commiseration, lamentations and admonitions – to assert greater control over their (sex) lives by zealously protecting themselves against contracting the virus. And they instructed women to prevent this, in part, by insisting that their husbands and lovers get tested and wear condoms – if there’s even the slightest doubt about their fidelity.
After all, no less a person than former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, whose foundation recently donated $500 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, lamented during the opening session (with his wife standing prominently by his side) that:
We’ll never be able to deal with the numbers of people that would have to go on treatment if we don’t make a dramatic breakthrough in prevention.For their part, researchers announced new drugs and presented new studies on prevention strategies (including “microbicides” – gels that block or kill the virus during intercourse – and male circumcision) that should help stem the HIV pandemic.
Yet virtually all of these exhortations and prevention strategies were relegated to virtual oblivion during the closing session on Friday in Toronto, Canada. Because it was dominated by the myriad ways in which speaker after speaker condemned South Africa for being, willfully, the weakest link in the global chain to stifle HIV/Aids.
Of course I appreciate that because I’ve written so many articles in support of the South African government, regular readers might expect me to come to its defense. However, I am constrained to concede that the condemnation in this case is entirely warranted. And here’s why:
An estimated 24.5 million people were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2005. Throughout this region last year, over 2 million people died from AIDS. But South Africans, citizens of the most developed country in the region, accounted for 5,500,000 of those people living with HIV and for 320,000 of those who died from AIDS.
Moreover, the primary reason this year’s conference focused on the plight of women with HIV is because they are being infected at a far greater rate than men. And the fact that women accounted for 3,100,000 of South Africans living with the virus in 2005 confirms this grave sexist trend. [Stats courtesy of avert.org]
With these morbid statistics in mind, here’s a sample of what two of the most prominent leaders in the global fight against HIV/Aids said about South Africa’s effort:
(It is helpful to know that many of these critics have long been stupefied by South African President Thabo Mbeki’s refusal to recognize that HIV causes AIDS – even though this is a universally-accepted scientific fact, and by his government’s reluctance to offer readily available HIV drugs that could have saved millions of South African lives.)
It is the only country in Africa, amongst all the countries I have traversed in the last five years, whose government is still obtuse, dilatory and negligent about rolling out treatment….It is the only country in Africa whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state. [Stephen Lewis, the U.N. special envoy on AIDS]
(The theories Lewis refers to stem from the traditional remedies South African Health Minister displayed at South Africa’s Khomanani exhibition during the conference, which involve ingesting therapeutic dosages of garlic, lemon and beetroot ruffling feathers….)
We have waited far too long to make this the crucial issue of this time….We as a world have sat back for far too long, watching South Africa continue to deteriorate in terms of thousands of people dying of HIV….Why it is that a government can continue to remain in power…despite evidence that it has abysmally failed to deliver all the essentials to its population, I do not understand. It is something that burns a hole through my heart. [Dr. Mark Wainberg, director of the McGill University AIDS Centre in Montreal and a conference organizer]
But here’s how Lewis summed up his remarks on South Africa, which drew a thunderous standing ovation from the 26,000 delegates in attendance:
The government has a lot to atone for. I’m of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption.
Meanwhile, South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was eager to explain to anyone who would give her the time of day that:
We have engaged in the healthy lifestyle awareness campaign, encouraging people to exercise regularly and to eat nutritious and healthy food particularly vegetables and fruits and this is supported by initiatives to promote community vegetable gardens and food security….Many people are benefiting from the provision of nutritional supplementation within the Comprehensive Plan. You can see it here, it is displayed [pointing to her garlic, lemons and beetroot…].
But try as Tshabalala-Msimang might to express some regard for anti-retroviral drugs, she made it clear that she (and her government) remain unconvinced that HIV causes AIDS and that her traditional remedies (which she claims builds up the immune system) are deserving of as much respect in the global fight against this disease as western drugs.
In fact, because Tshabalala-Msimang seemed so blissfully ignorant of the prevention strategies being discussed at the conference, it fell to her spokesman Sibani Mngadi to explain what regard, if any, her government has for them. Unfortunately, Mngadi spent more time trying to convince reporters that (UN envoy) Lewis has a vendetta against South Africa than explaining why, given the alarming number of South Africans living with and dying from HIV/Aids, his government refuses to adopt the drugs protocol that have proved so effective in every other country in the world.
Further complicating Tshabalala-Msimang’s message, however, were AIDS activists from South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) who staged violent protests in Cape Town against Tshabalala Msimang’s exhibition at the conference. Indeed, some of them were so ashamed and resentful of her exhibition (especially in light of the death last week of a prisoner who died from HIV/Aids, they believe, because he was denied anti-retroviral drugs) that they vowed to have her sacked, if not arrested, upon her return to South Africa.
Alas, I feel constrained to draw an unfortunate parallel between the incomprehensible way President Thabo Mbeki (r) is dealing with South Africa’s AIDS crisis and the unconscionable way President Robert Mugage (l) dealt with Zimbabwe’s famine. (In part, by allowing his people to starve to death instead of distributing the genetically modified food donated by western countries, which he labeled as “poison” – even though these foods are the staple of diets in developed countries).
NOTE: I was extremely encouraged that Bill Gates endorsed male circumcision as one of the exciting new prevention strategies to reduce levels of HIV infection. Click here to see why.
ENDNOTE: Professional obligations prevented me from accepting an invitation to attend this conference. Therefore, I am grateful to C-SPAN2 for its extensive coverage, which allowed me to see some sessions on live broadcast and others on TiVo. Interestingly enough, in discussions with colleagues over the weekend, it became abundantly clear that I saw far more of what transpired at the conference than they did….
Sunday, August 20, 2006 at 10:52 AM
Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 12:01 PM
Friday, August 18, 2006 at 11:33 AMPSA: Please do not believe anything you read or hear (especially on Cable TV) about this case, until (DNA) evidence is presented in a court of law which implicates the defendant on trial.
Almost a decade ago, when the bizarre circumstances of JonBenet Ramsey’s death dominated all the news that was fit to print (and all the gossip enquiring minds wanted to know), I developed the reasonable suspicion that her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were jointly and severally responsible. And, regretfully, the spectacle surrounding yesterday’s arrest of the reputed pedophile John Mark Karr has done nothing to alter my suspicion.
It’s pointless, however, for me to proffer a prima facie case for their guilt. Instead, I shall suffice to remind or inform you of the following incriminating details, which placed them under “an umbrella of suspicion”:
Expert analysis of the ransom note, which the prosecutor’s expert said implicated the mother (may she RIP), their refusal to speak to the police without the other spouse being present, their refusal to submit to an FBI-administered polygraph test and the flight out of state within 24 hours after reporting JonBenet’s death were only some of the dubious circumstances that led to my firm suspicions. (And, their claims of passing polygraph tests administered by a battery of experts-for-hire were hardly persuasive.)
Now comes the perverted, publicity-seeking psycho, John Mark Karr, claiming that his love for JonBenet led him to her home where, in the act of making tender love to her, he killed her, accidentally (by bashing her head in and stangling her with a noose).But here’s a little informed speculation for you:John Karr intends to drive his patently concocted confession for much longer than the 15 minutes of fame he’s due. He exhibits the passive-aggressive confidence of knowing that he has set in motion the global legal and media inertia that will guarantee his infamy for at least 15 months or the rest of his life, whichever comes first.
After all, in addition to a clearly disturbed mind, Karr presented yesterday with the classic symptoms of a man withering away from the ravages of HIV/AIDS. And it requires only elementary deduction to conclude that he must have contracted the virus from one of the girls (or boys) he rented during one of his sex tours in Thailand – the pedophile capital of the world. But, given his reported obsession with JonBonet since her death, he probably fantasized about her everytime he assaulted one of those kids. And, from these experiences, one can see how it became a fiendishly fortuitous opportunity for Karr to declare himself her Romeo, who killed her in a crime of passion, to ensure that he goes out with a bang, not a whimper.…
How’s that!Of course, some analysts suggest that Karr has to be the right man because he knows so much, including “undisclosed details”, about the case. Whilst others counter that he’s just a weird crime-stalker who spent 10 years researching the case.
But if Karr has this purported first-person knowledge of the crime, why would he claim that he drugged and had sex with JonBenet, when the pathologist found no drugs or evidence of sexual intercourse (beyond possible “digital penetration”)? Why would he claim that he picked her up from school, when she was assaulted over the Christmas Holidays? And, why would he claim to be the killer, when his ex-wife (who divorced him in 2001 because she suspected him of having an unnatural attraction to little children, including their own) says that he was at home with her in Alabama when the crime occurred?
Moreover, he claims to have corresponded with the Ramseys and has reason to believe that Patsy knew of his longing to confess before she died 2 months ago; yet John told Barbara Walters he’d never heard of Karr and had no idea what correspondence he was talking about. (And, what’s with Karr’s eerily formal reference to Patsy as “Patricia”?)
Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future (i.e., until the next big story hits), there will be no shortage of irresponsible talking heads on TV offering idle speculation about who may have killed JonBenet…(How? And Why?).
But it’s worth asking why the media and public fascination with this one case, when thousands of young girls were kidnapped, assaulted and murdered since JonBenet’s death with nary a peep? (The baby Natalee Holloway?) And don’t get me started on how sick it is that any (Christian?) mother would dress up her 6-year old daughter like a Las Vegas showgirl and parade her on stage like a performing sex toy! (This was the most demure pose of JonBonet doing her vogue-thing that I could find….)
NOTE: You’ve probably heard that master illusionist David Copperfield claims to have found the fountain of youth in my country of birth, The Bahamas. Click here to read my CNN commentary on this miraculous find.
Thursday, August 17, 2006 at 10:33 AMNotwithstanding the body-image pathology most women suffer, I know a few who are not only immune but also share my aversion to the skinny bitches society would have us believe are the paragons of female beauty. Therefore, when one of them sent this picture of Nicole Ritchie (right – reportedly taken just days ago), I thought immediately that – in the continuing series of publicity-seeking antics between the two simpletons of The Simple Life – Nicole has finally managed to upstage Paris Hilton.
Parents of teenage girls who are clueless about celebrities like Keira Knightly, Lindsay Lohan and Miss Ritchie here might as well be parents who are blissfully ignorant about drugs like drugs ecstasy, rohypnol and cocaine. Because the negative influence these “Stupid girls” have on impressionable teenagers is just as pernicious as the damaging effect these drugs have on their lives.
After all, these anorexic-looking celebrities are the ones setting the standards of beauty (and acceptable behavior) that young girls are desperately trying to emulate.
However, we do not have to wait for confessional memoirs by afflicted beauties like Ritchie to find out that the (dark) beauty secret these role models rely on has more to do with anorexia nervosa than nutrition or exercise. In fact, click here to read how the actress who played superhero Lara Croft vomited 30 times a day to “stay in shape”. (Incidentally, I wonder how many women felt betrayed by Jane Fonda for waiting until her regime of cigarettes, coke (not cola) and cosmetic surgeries could no longer enable her vanity to reveal her bulimic beauty tips – in her bestselling memoir….)
And, nor should we wait for one of them to end up dead like Karen Carpenter (or looking like the women seen here in this Lilith Gallery of dying beauties) to begin warning young girls about this health hazard as much as we warn them about drugs.
NOTE: Even though I’ve been on the anti-skinny crusade since my days as a certified fitness trainer almost 20 years ago, I appreciate that most parents couldn’t care any less what I think about which celebrities their little girls want to look like. That’s why I wrote this article several months ago welcoming Harry Potter author J K Rowling as a far more persuasive preacher to help save the bodies of these young girls.
Fashion model fired for being too thin…Hallelujah!
Wednesday, August 16, 2006 at 11:08 AMOn 15 August 1945, Japan surrendered to allied forces to end WWII. And since then, 15 August has been celebrated throughout Asia as a day of liberation from Japanese colonial rule. Alternatively, as one can well-imagine, this anniversary has been observed with contrite reflection by most Japanese.
Meanwhile, like every other country that has ever engaged in warfare, Japan built a war memorial, the Yasukuni shrine, to honor its 2.5 million war dead. But included amongst those honored there are notorious soldiers who were convicted of war crimes. And, this is why the leaders of China and South Korea, where most of those crimes were committed, have registered official protests every time a Japanese prime minister made his annual pilgrimage.
It is notable, however, that when he paid his respects on five previous occasions, PM Junichiro Koizumi shunned the publicity and provocative symbolism that would have attended doing so on 15 August. Therefore, it came as a surprise when he scheduled this year’s visit on this controversial anniversary; thereby, abandoning the due deference to which, despite their protests, the Chinese and Koreans had become accustomed.
However, no one was surprised yesterday when Koizumi’s slighted neighbors issued their most strident and dire protests to date:
This move…seriously harms the feelings of those victimized by Japanese militarism during World War II… [Prime Minister Koizumi’s] visit will undermine the political basis for ties between China and Japan. [The Chinese Foreign Ministry]
The Japanese prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine is a total disrespect for the Korean government and people. [The South Korean Foreign Ministry]Yet, notwithstanding his imperial posturing, no one expects fallout from this visit to amount to any more than a manageable escalation in the schoolyard row that has been going on between China and Japan for years – over everything for the revisionist history contained in Japanese school books to fighting political-proxy wars to wield greater influence on the world stage (especially at the UN).
Although Japan’s war veterans and unreconstructed imperialists can finally enjoy some measure of vindication. After all, they felt Koizumi’s visit was long overdue, since they regard the Yasukuni shrine not as a place to bow in contrition but one to rally around with jingoistic pride.
NOTE: People continually express bewilderment that China and South Korea take umbrage because Japan’s prime ministers pay homage to their war dead. But, even though I recognise their right to do so, I have complete sympathy for the Asians who feel slighted by these visits. And, here’s why:
I consider how Jews and Europeans (especially the Poles) would feel if Chancellors of Germany made annual pilgrimages to a shrine for Germany’s war dead to pay homage to Adolf Hitler and other Nazi war criminals. Because I’m acutely aware that the Japanese committed atrocities against the Chinese and Koreans that rivaled the atrocities the Germans committed against the Jews and other Europeans during World War II?
ENDNOTE: Upon first reading, it would seem this story has finally knocked North Korea’s Kim “Dr Strangelove” Jung-il off the front pages. However, consider this:
The Washinton Post suggests that Koizuma acted so boldly because he no longer fears political repercussion – since his final year in office ends next month. But I submit that he did so to send the message (with America’s blessings) to North Korea (for China’s edification) that Japan will no longer be intimidated by Kim’s reckless use of nuclear threats as a political bargaining chip….
Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 10:40 AMAfter a Danish newspaper published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad almost a year ago, I wrote this article defending its right to do so. But I also made a point of expressing solidarity with Muslims who reacted to the caricatures with non-violent moral indignation, initially.
Unfortunately, when they proceeded to orchestrate violent protests all over the world that seemed motivated more by political than religious concerns, I was also constrained to write the following:
My record of support for Muslims seeking to hold (Muslim and non-Muslim) leaders accountable for social, economic, political and religious discrimination against Muslims is beyond reproach. But my support does not extend to those who pervert their own religion for a polyglot babel of political purposes – as seems to be the case with the vast majority of Muslims now rummaging, pillaging and killing in the name of Islam.
Now the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the self-proclaimed defender of Islam, has removed all doubts about what motivated Muslims to react so violently to the caricatures of Muhammad. Because, by perverse reasoning only an anti-Semite could fashion, a state-run Iranian newspaper opened an exhibition in Tehran yesterday featuring caricatures of the Holocaust, which it billed unabashedly as:
…a response to the outrage caused among Muslims last year by Western caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
But, overlooking the patently flawed reasoning, is this response fair game (tit-for-tat, lex talionis)?
I say yes, unreservedly. After all, the same freedoms (of the press and expression) I defended when caricatures of Muhammad were published apply also to the publication of these caricatures, no matter how spiteful, immoral and anti-Semitic they may be. Moreover, I am just as keen to stand with Jews who react to this Tehran exhibition with non-violent moral indignation.
Now, for a little exercise in moral relativism, let’s see how many Jews take to the streets all over the world to rummage, pillage and kill in the name of Judaism….
Monday, August 14, 2006 at 11:11 AMThe Lebanon cease-fire resolution came into effect this morning at 1:00 EST. However, I don’t know any sane person who thinks it will hold.
Of course, I understand the political factors that compelled Israel and Hezbollah to accept this patently-flawed UN resolution. But I’m indignant at the world leaders who brokered it (especially George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac) knowing that this cease-fire resolution has no teeth and that they are more accepting than the warring parties are of its terms. After all, it’s self-evident that Israel and Hezbollah regard it as little more than an opportunity to regroup:
Hezbollah – to figure out new supply routes for more rockets and munitions from Iran, since Israel has bombed all roads, bridges and airport runways; and Israel – to figure out the flaws in its military strategy, since the more it claims to have degraded Hezbollah’s capabilities, the more rockets Hezbollah fires off and the more Israeli soldiers Hezbollah kills.
Indeed, as I questioned, rhetorically I assumed, in this recent article almost 2 weeks ago:
….[D]oes anyone have any confidence that the diplomats engaged in political warfare at the UN will negotiate a resolution that’s worth the paper it’s written on?
Because, I continued:
…unless a new resolution calls for a peacemaking force comprised of troops from countries like France, Russia, China, Egypt and Jordan (as opposed to monitors from Fiji and Togo), all of the talk at the UN is just a waste of time. After all, Hezbollah does not even need to look at Saddam Hussein’s violation of over 17 such resolutions between 1990 – 1999, with impunity (until the U.S. invaded in 2003), to know how much force a UN resolution carries. Because, it has fared pretty well – having violated UN Resolution 1559, which called for the “disbanding and disarmament” of Hezbollah, with rockets-red-glaring impunity (until Israel invaded a few weeks ago).
Yet it seems a perverse form of cognitive dissonance that the world is so focused on this new UN Resolution 1701, which again calls, inter alia, for the disarmament of Hezbollah. (You probably saw the ridiculous “Countdown to Cease-fire” promo that was featured on CNN and other cable stations – as if they were heralding a Happy New Year or marking something truly noteworthy like the launch of the space shuttle!)
Because, even though it signed on to the resolution, an emboldened Hezbollah has already vowed that it will not disarm under any circumstances. And no one believes that the Lebanese army and a contingent of UN soldiers (no matter how robust) will pick a fight with Hezbollah to enforce this critical provision of 1701.
Meanwhile, even though it also signed on to the resolution, a humiliated, if not defeated, Israel has already vowed that it will not withdraw its troops from South Lebanon until Hezbollah is disarmed; and that in any event, it intends to retain a substantial amount of the territory it gained to establish a demilitarized (cease-fire) zone on its own terms.
Therefore, given these realities on the ground, my cynical prediction – that this UN Lebanon resolution won’t be worth the paper it’s written on – seems more prophetic today than it was weeks ago….
NOTE: Here’s a chicken and egg question that might help explain why this war will never end: If Hezbollah maintains that it’s only retaliating against Israel’s bombardment, and if Israel maintains that it’s only retaliating against Hezbollah’s rockets, then which of these two armed forces do you think will be prepared (or required: Hezbollah by Iran, and Israel by the U.S.) to absorb the final blow for lasting peace? (Talk about a game of chicken….)
I fear lex talionis (a.k.a an eye for an eye) will determine the outcome of this conflict, not UN resolutions (now at 8 and counting…).
Sunday, August 13, 2006 at 11:34 AMLast December, western architects – who thought the invasion of Iraq would lay the foundation for democracy throughout the Middle East – rejoiced when over 11 million Iraqis risked life and limb to vote for a new government.
But those of us who closely inspected the building plans for their democracy crusade knew well that their rejoicing was unwarranted. Because what I found then were the flaws in their plans (exposed here and here) that have led inexorably to what has happened in Iraq since election day:
That even though Iraqis voted for democracy and an end to sectarian violence; in fact, foundations were being laid for the theocracy and civil war they’re now living under in Iraq….
Saturday, August 12, 2006 at 11:56 AM