Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A key step in further eroding Pres. Emile Lahoud's position in Beirut

Naharnet News Desk: "The parliament unanimously agreed to adopt a draft law that grants the five members of the Higher Judicial Council the absolute authority to choose and appoint other judges to the Council, An Nahar reported on Tuesday.
The Council cannot assign a judicial investigator to look into the killing of An Nahar General Manager Gebran Tueni unless all Council members are appointed. "

Al Qaeda Detainee's Mysterious Release

Al Qaeda Detainee's Mysterious Release: "His case also highlights mysteries of U.S. priorities in deciding who to keep and who to let go. As the Pentagon gears up to hold its first military tribunals at Guantanamo after four years of preparations, it has released a prisoner it called a key operative. At the same time, it retains under heavy guard men whose background and significance are never discussed."

Monday, January 30, 2006

What Hamas Is Seeking

This is an astute appeal to the U.S. by one of the leading figures in Hamas. Readers will recall that Abu Marzook was held in jail for two years, and finally expelled to Jordan. The U.S. lacked the evidence to bring him to trial, since the only testimony produced was flimsy. Israel declined to request extradition.
What Hamas Is Seeking: "As the Israelis value their own security, Palestinians are entitled to their fundamental rights to live in dignity and security. We ask them to reflect on the peace that our peoples once enjoyed and the protection that Muslims gave the Jewish community worldwide. We will exert good-faith efforts to remove the bitterness that Israel's occupation has succeeded in creating, alienating a generation of Palestinians. We call on them not to condemn posterity to endless bloodshed and a conflict in which dominance is illusory. There must come a day when we will live together, side by side once again."



Sunday, January 29, 2006

'Lobby' Case Seen as Part Of Campaign To Tighten Control on Official Secrets - Forward Newspaper Online

'Lobby' Case Seen as Part Of Campaign To Tighten Control on Official Secrets - Forward Newspaper Online: "Although Franklin's prison sentence was low in relation to the federal guidelines for the three felonies of which he was convicted, some observers viewed his 151-month sentence as harsh. Such a long prison term will add to the 'chilling effect' that the Franklin-Aipac case already has had on relations between government officials and nongovernmental organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

'This creates a situation where if you meet with a government official, you are at your own peril,' Foxman said. 'Are you supposed to ask the official, 'Is this classified?' 'Is that unclassified?'' Franklin's sentencing, he said, 'has made this more serious than we had thought before.' The chilling effect, Foxman said, would particularly impact lobbying groups. 'If you add to this the atmosphere against lobbying' that is now plaguing America, 'then you really don't know what the lines are, what the parameters are' in terms of relations with government officials, he said."

Joe Sacco on Iraq

The Arabist � Joe Sacco on Iraq: "Joe Sacco on Iraq"

An old piece from 1995 but readers may find it relevant: The Challenge of Inclusion in the Middle East

Augustus Richard Norton, The Challenge of Inclusion in the Middle East

Barry R. Posen: Exit Strategy

Posen's opening piece is one of a number of contributions that are uncommonly thoughtful.
Barry R. Posen: Exit Strategy: "The United States needs a new strategy in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. The war is at best a stalemate; the large American presence now causes more trouble than it prevents. We must disengage from Iraq�and we must do it by removing most American and allied military units within 18 months. Though disengagement has risks and costs, they can be managed. The consequences would not be worse for the United States than the present situation, and capabilities for dealing with them are impressive, if properly employed.
Some people argue that the United States should disengage because the war was a mistake in the first place, or because it is morally wrong. I do not propose to pass judgment on these questions one way or the other. My case for disengagement is different: it is forward-looking and based on American national interests. The war as it has evolved (and is likely to evolve) badly serves those interests. A well-planned disengagement will serve them much better by reducing military, economic, and political costs."

Fadlallah expects Hamas to hold indirect talks with Israel

The Daily Star - Politics - Fadlallah expects Hamas to hold indirect talks with Israel: "Lebanon's most senior Shiite Muslim cleric said Friday he expects Hamas to negotiate indirectly with Israel following the militant group's sweeping victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections."

A prescient piece on Hamas

Opinions: 'The rise of Hamas' by Alastair Crooke Prospect Magazine February 2006 issue 119: "If free and reasonably fair parliamentary elections have gone ahead as scheduled at the end of January in the Palestinian territories, we are likely to witness a profound shift in power. The radical younger Fatah generation of the intifadas, represented by the imprisoned Marwan Barghouti, will soon be sitting beside Hamas in a 'militant' Palestinian parliament. "

Will inclusion change Hamas or can fanatics become pragmatists?

Los Angeles Times: Can fanatics become pragmatists?: "Yet the situation may not be as awful and terminal as it looks at first sight. No one has any illusions that Hamas will suddenly metamorphose and give up its aspiration to destroy Israel. On the other hand, its leaders have always acted pragmatically when circumstances dictated it. In conversation, they note the prophet Muhammad declared an armistice with the reviled Kureish tribe when he realized that war would hurt his own interests.

There is a possibility � albeit a very small one � that Hamas will act within the narrow opening between what its fanatic religious faith allows it and the constraints of reality. In such circumstances, it may be possible to achieve an extended cease-fire that will end Palestinian terror and Israeli targeted killings. Such an arrangement would include Israeli withdrawal from most of the occupied territories, while allowing it to retain the major settlement blocs. Both peoples would then wait patiently for the next stage and for a decision of some sort between war and peace. Israel fostered Hamas in the 1980s as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization. For four decades, Israel oppressed the Palestinians and pushed them into their current state of horrible despair. As an Israeli, I do not think that I can today judge the Palestinians for being tempted by the deceits of Hamas and the violent, simplistic magic of fanaticism. "

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The diplomatic game in well underway after the Hamas victory

Here Khaled Mishal on forming a Palestinian army.
title: "Hamas is ready to merge armed factions including its military wing to form an army to defend the Palestinian people, the group's political leader Khaled Meshal said on Saturday.

Meshal also told a news conference in Damascus that Hamas will honor commitments made by the Palestinian Authority to Israel, provided they serve Palestinian interests, despite the group's refusal to recognize Israel."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas will seek to mend relationships�

FT.com / World / Middle East & Africa - Hamas �will seek to mend relationships�: "Hamas will set about mending fences with an international community that regards it as a terrorist organisation following its landslide victory in Palestinian elections, a leading moderate close to the Islamic movement said on Thursday.

Ziad Abu Amr, a former Palestinian Authority minister who Hamas supported in Wednesday�s poll, said Hamas would also try to persuade members of the defeated Fatah party to join a national unity government."

Living With Hamas's Victory

Here the usually collected and sensible Hoagland reveals less of an approach than a glimpse of his intellectual framework, his assumptions and, alas, his ignorance as well. Hamas among other aspects, is a critique of Oslo and its beneficiaries that did not include many Palestinians, and privileged Israeli security at the expense of Palestinian existence. Hamas will not be able to rule if it rejects any settlement with Israel. A majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution, but on terms that do not embrace Ariel Sharon's vision. Expect a far more nuanced Hamas than you glimpse in Hoagland's spiteful piece.

Living With Hamas's Victory: "In their pain, the Palestinians have lashed out against Fatah and entrusted their fate to a movement that exists in large part to inflict pain on their Israeli and American enemies. The psychic rewards of revenge, which are much esteemed in the Arab world, outweigh, right now, material and other rewards that were supposed to flow to Palestinians from peace accords or Israeli unilateral disengagement.
Washington and other capitals will be tempted to focus exclusively on the international dimensions of this lashing out. It brings setbacks not only for the 'road map' outline for Israeli and Palestinian states living in peace but also for international efforts to contain Iran. Having Hamas form or control a Palestinian regime gives the extremist forces of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another card to play.
Even after Hamas's victory became clear, Bush urged President Abbas to 'stay in office and work to move the process forward.' The president seemed to be proposing that Abbas seek a political blessing from Hamas and a power-of-attorney to continue talks that the radicals denounce as worthless.
That is precisely the wrong direction to take. The Bush administration and other governments should do nothing to obscure for the Palestinians the consequences of their actions at the ballot boxes on Wednesday. It would not be effective diplomacy or politics to cushion the Palestinians from those consequences."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Who's watching?

village voice > news > Who's watching? by Jarrett Murphy: "The Voice reported last month that lawyers who have for decades challenged NYPD surveillance of activist groups are taking issue with a new police policy that allows widespread videotaping of political expression ('The Spying Game,' December 13). A few days later The New York Times revealed videotape evidence of undercover cops not only watching political events like Critical Mass rallies, but also participating in and even manipulating them.
This news of more aggressive local snooping came amid revelations that federal surveillance had also reached previously unknown dimensions: "

Rumsfeld: Army Not 'Broken'

This article refers to an important study by Andrew Krepinevich, who is a former colleague of mine. Andy is a fine analyst and his work has enjoyed a wide and respectful audience in the Pentagon. His earlier work, including a powerful book on the failure of the US in Vietnam, is serious and difficult to dismiss. Architects of failure in Iraq, including Donald Rumsfeld will exert themselves to dismiss this study with flag-waving and banalities. Don't fall for it.Rumsfeld: Army Not 'Broken': "'Soldiers and brigades are being deployed more frequently, and for longer periods, than what the Army believes is appropriate in order to attract and retain the number of soldiers necessary,' Andrew F. Krepinevich, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, wrote in a November 2005 study for the Pentagon first disclosed Tuesday by the Associated Press. 'It is not clear, even to Army leaders, how long this practice can be sustained.'"

Army Stretched to Breaking Point on Yahoo! News

This is an important study by Andrew Krepinevich, who is a former colleague of mine. Andy is a fine analyst and his work has enjoyed a wide and respectful audience in the Pentagon. His earlier work, including a powerful book on the failure of the US in Vietnam, is serious and difficult to dismiss. Architects of failure in Iraq, including Donald Rumsfeld will exert themselves to dismiss this study with flag-waving and banalities. Don't fall for it.
Print Story: Study: Army Stretched to Breaking Point on Yahoo! News

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Democratizing the Middle East?

Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies - Tufts University

Delusion and Illusion Worthy of Dickens

Delusion and Illusion Worthy of Dickens - New York Times: "The party simply seems incapable of getting the muscular message and riveting messenger needed to dispel the mud, fog, drizzle and soot emanating from Karl Rove's rag-and-bone shop on Pennsylvania Avenue.
As the White House drives its truckload of lies around the country, it becomes ever clearer that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore are just not the right people to respond to the administration's national security scare-a-thon."

Decline in Oil Output Dims Iraq's Recovery

Decline in Oil Output Dims Iraq's Recovery - Los Angeles Times: "Iraqi oil production fell by 8% last year, calling into question the nation's ability to support itself and fund reconstruction efforts as U.S. assistance is scaled back."

Decline in Oil Output Dims Iraq's Recovery

Decline in Oil Output Dims Iraq's Recovery - Los Angeles Times: "Iraqi oil production fell by 8% last year, calling into question the nation's ability to support itself and fund reconstruction efforts as U.S. assistance is scaled back."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A small step toward political reform

Guardian Unlimited The Guardian Kuwait parliament ousts ailing emir: "Kuwait today became the first Gulf state to remove its ruler through the constitutional processes as its emir of little more than a week was ousted by MPs.
Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah was proclaimed emir last Sunday but the succession prompted a leadership crisis because the 76-year-old was considered to ill to take the 30-word oath of succession."

A symptom pretending to be a cure.

An older reference, but one that I thought worth sharing.
Books On the trail of Osama bin Laden: "John Gray's essay on the modern geo-political landscape is an immensely thought-provoking piece of work, not least for identifying the paradox at the heart of al-Qaeda, an organisation devoted to the destruction of the global civilisation that bore and nurtured it and without which it could not exist. He comes closest to a definition when he paraphrases Karl Kraus's words on psychoanalysis: 'Radical Islam is a symptom of the disease of which it is pretending to be the cure.' "

The Arrogance and Hubris of Jerry Bremer

NO QUARTER: The Arrogance and Hubris of Jerry Bremer

Monday, January 23, 2006

Held in 9/11 Net, Muslims Return to Accuse U.S.

Held in 9/11 Net, Muslims Return to Accuse U.S. - New York Times: "Hundreds of noncitizens were swept up on visa violations in the weeks after 9/11, held for months in a much-criticized federal detention center in Brooklyn as 'persons of interest' to terror investigators, and then deported. This week, one of them is back in New York and another is due today - the first to return to the United States"

U.S. Army Officer Convicted in Death Of Iraqi Detainee

U.S. Army Officer Convicted in Death Of Iraqi Detainee: "That Welshofer was spared a murder conviction -- and a potential life sentence -- indicates that the jury believed Welshofer did not try kill Mowhoush, but that he should have known the tactic he used could lead to death. Mowhoush stopped breathing during the interrogation, and attempts to revive him failed. The negligent-homicide conviction could result in a maximum three-year prison sentence, and the negligent-dereliction-of-duty conviction an additional three months. Sentencing hearings are to begin today.
Maj. Tiernan Dolan, who prosecuted the case, said that the treatment Welshofer imposed on Mowhoush 'could fairly be described as torture' and that he 'treated that general worse than you would treat a dog,' knowing that he had an obligation to treat the detainee humanely, the AP reported."

Ripples from the Franklin trial

As I have noted here on several occasions, the conviction of Larry Franklin is an important event that may erode the intimate (and as the Franklin case shows, illegal) access of pro-Israel lobbyists to U.S. policymakers. Here we hear just such concerns voiced by some of the leading figures on the scene.
Haaretz - Israel News: "Two days after former Pentagon analyst Larry A. Franklin was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in jail for sharing classified information with pro-Israel lobbyists, several American Jewish community leaders echoed a single refrain: There's reason to worry, but no need to feel like this is a crisis.

Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman said the Franklin affair could potentially pose a threat to all Jewish lobbyists.

Foxman said it is not clear what exactly is allowed in terms of the relationships between the administration and the media and between nongovernmental organizations and foreign governments. The lack of clarity, he said, could have a destructive influence on the activities of all U.S. Jewish groups."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Where is Posse Comitatus when we need it?

The Other Big Brother - Newsweek National News - MSNBC.com: "But that's not how the Pentagon saw it. To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is 'force protection'--tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALO--short for Threat and Local Observation Notice--that would collect 'raw information' about 'suspicious incidents.' The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's 'terrorism threat warning process,' according to an internal Pentagon memo.
A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. It's not clear why the Pentagon considered the protest worthy of attention, although organizer Parkin had previously been arrested while demonstrating at ExxonMobil headquarters (the charges were dropped). But there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations. A Pentagon memo obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that the deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the subject."
[Updated link, 10/2014]

Or is Posse Comitatus a myth? [Added: 2008 "Democracy Now" discussion "Is Posse Comitatus Dead? US Troops on US Streets".

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Former Military Analyst Gets Prison Term for Passing Information - New York Times

There has been surprisingly little publicity about this case despite the fact that it strikes right at the heart of the most powerful foreign affairs lobbying group--AIPAC, the registered pro-Israel lobby. It is hard to believe that this case would have moved forward unless Bush wanted to push AIPAC down a peg or two. The next trial is for two senior AIPAC staffers--who were hastily fired by AIPAC when the accusations surfaced--and with a twelve year prison sentence hanging over his head I imagine Mr. Franklin will show little reticence to spill the beans. It will be an important trial to watch.
Former Military Analyst Gets Prison Term for Passing Information - New York Times: "Mr. Franklin's sentence was the government's first victory in an unusual case in which prosecutors have also indicted the lobbyists to whom he gave the information. The charges against Mr. Franklin and the lobbyists were offenses under the Espionage Act.
The lobbyists, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, were senior staff members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying organization known as Aipac that was close to officials in the Bush administration.
Their prosecution represents a novel case because neither Mr. Rosen nor Mr. Weissman held security clearances that required them to protect classified information. Neither was a government employee nor had any official connection to any foreign government.
They operated in a circle of lobbyists who had traditionally traded gossip, political insights and intelligence with administration officials, Congressional aides and journalists. But prosecutors have suggested that their actions took them beyond the accepted boundaries of information swapping to include the passing on of military secrets whose disclosure could have damaged the United States."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Administration Paper Defends Spy Program

Big brother claims the right, under the War Powers clause, to act secretly or overtly contrary to laws that it deems unconstitutionally limit presidential power. By this logic, the president has the right to literally choose which laws he concedes to respect in time of war.
Read this a illegal overreaching by the president.

Administration Paper Defends Spy Program: "The Justice Department's lengthy legal analysis also says that if a 1978 law that requires court warrants for domestic eavesdropping is interpreted as blocking the president's powers to protect the country in a time of war, its constitutionality is doubtful and the president's authority supersedes it."

Google's principled legal stand is in contrast to Yahoo and MSN.

Creeping encroachments on our privacy to do not begin at the center but on the periphery, where many people will say that"that doesn't affect me". Bravo to Google for standing up with it should.

Google Resists U.S. Subpoena of Search Data - New York Times: "Although the government has modified its demands since last year, Google said Thursday that it would continue to fight. 'Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and their demand for information overreaches,' said Nicole Wong, Google's associate general counsel, referring to government lawyers. 'We intend to resist their motion vigorously.'
Philip B. Stark, a statistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who was hired by the Justice Department to analyze search engine data in the case, said in legal documents that search engine data provided crucial insight into information on the Internet.
'Google is one of the most popular search engines,' he wrote in a court document related to the case. Thus, he said, Google's databases of Web addresses and user searches 'are directly relevant.'
But Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch, an online industry newsletter, questioned the need for a subpoena. 'Is this really something the government needs Google to help them with?' he said.
As for Google's rivals, MSN declined to speak directly to the case but released a statement saying it generally 'works closely with law enforcement officials.' "

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pity the Region: a long review essay of Robert Fisk's new book, The Great War for Civilisation

:For months I felt as though I was married to the monster of a book by Fisk. It is nearly 1,100 pages, and with tiny page margins to boot, but it is serious work by a unique journalist with uncommon knowledge of the Middle East. The full review runs in the Nation, February 6, 2006.
visionaries Wanted: "Fisk's magnum opus is not just about America in the Middle East, but America has a starring role in The Great War for Civilisation and it is not a flattering one. She is America, righteous of voice but tone-deaf to history, jealous of power but so entwined with Israel that she sometimes reads the other character's lines as her own. Notwithstanding Fisk's penchant for denying the powerful the benefit of the doubt, there is more than enough truth in his depiction to show that George W. Bush's promises to the oppressed (notably in his January 2005 inaugural speech) are more rodomontade than factual, especially when the President claimed, 'All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.' It is impossible to read Fisk's book--replete as it is with evidence of US complicity with dictators, selective tolerance for political violence and erratic respect for human rights--and hear Bush's claims as other than crowd-pleasing boilerplate. "

Brandeis University Faces Threat Of Boycott Over Palestinian Scholar - Forward Newspaper Online

Some supporters of Israel are so blinded by their ideological constructs and, in some cases, by their racism that they construe any critical Palestinian voice is ipso facto, a supporter of terrorism. It is a bit like presuming that an Israeli who is unwilling to accept a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank must be a member or supporters of a terrorist gang of colonists that attacks Palestinian civilians.
This article is about Khalil Shikaki, arguably the leading Palestinian pollster and a find analyst of Palestinian and Israeli politics. He happens to be the brother of a man who led Islamic Jihad until he was assassinated in Cyprus by Israel. Anyone who knows Dr. Shikaki or his work would find the charge risible. This is a charge born of ignorance. Shame!
Brandeis University Faces Threat Of Boycott Over Palestinian Scholar - Forward Newspaper Online

Breaking Ranks

Breaking Ranks: "'My wife said to me: 'You have two choices, my man. You can think more about him or you can think more about your country. I suggest you do the latter.' '"

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

NO QUARTER: The Arrogance and Hubris of Jerry Bremer

NO QUARTER: The Arrogance and Hubris of Jerry Bremer: "As Jerry Bremer hits the media circuit to tout his new book, which chronicles his tenure as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, he insists that he and the Administration never anticipated that an insurgency would emerge in Iraq. I am sure Jerry believes what he is saying, but he is wrong. I tried to warn him and I tried to hook him up with genuine experts on Iraq before he went to Baghdad in the spring of 2003. Jerry refused to listen and declined the help. Although Jerry is a brilliant, capable man, he was unwilling to listen to others or accept facts that contradicted the Administration�s conventional wisdom. Jerry�s arrogance in Iraq was symptomatic of the entire Bush Administration�s approach to policy and accounts in large measure for the mess we now face. "

Warm and Fuzzy TV, Brought to You by Hamas

Warm and Fuzzy TV, Brought to You by Hamas - New York Times: "Hazim Sharawi, whose stage name is Uncle Hazim, is a quiet, doe-eyed young man who has an easy way with children and will soon preside over a children's television show here on which he'll cavort with men in larger-than-life, fake-fur animal suits on the Gaza Strip's newest television station, Al Aksa TV.
But Captain Kangaroo this is not. The station, named for Islam's third holiest site, is owned by Hamas, the people who helped make suicide "

Battle waged in Boston over new mosque | csmonitor.com

Battle waged in Boston over new mosque csmonitor.com

And now a word from Ziggy, the parrot

Even birds may speak truth to power.
Kiss and Tell: She Kisses and the Parrot Tells - New York Times: "'Hiya, Gary!' the parrot trilled flirtatiously whenever Chris Taylor's girlfriend answered her cellphone.
But Mr. Taylor, the owner of the parrot, did not know anyone named Gary. And his girlfriend, Suzy Collins, who had moved into his apartment a year earlier, swore that she didn't, either. She stuck to her story even after the parrot, Ziggy, began making lovey-dovey, smooching noises when it heard the name Gary on television.
And so it went until the fateful day just before Christmas when, as Mr. Taylor and Ms. Collins snuggled together on the sofa, Ziggy blurted out, 'I love you, Gary,' his voice a dead ringer for Ms. Collins's."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

USAID Paper Details Security Crisis in Iraq

USAID Paper Details Security Crisis in Iraq: "The breakdown of Iraqi society and 'the absence of state control and an effective police force' have let 'criminal elements within Iraqi society have almost free rein,' the paper states. Iraqi criminals in some cases 'have aligned themselves with most of the combating groups and factions to further their aims' and Baghdad 'is reportedly divided into zones controlled by organized criminal groups-clans,' it states.
The USAID analysis also raises the potential for political parties to come into armed conflict, as the two main Kurdish parties did in the mid-1990s. 'As political parties regain importance in the emerging democracy, there is an increased risk they may devolve into conflict groups,' the paper warns.
Paul Pillar, the CIA's former national intelligence officer for the Middle East and now a visiting professor at Georgetown University, said the analysis conveyed 'the reality that the violence in Iraq is complex and multi-faceted.'
One weakness of the paper, Pillar said, is the underplaying of the 'resentment of the foreign occupation.' He said there are Iraqi 'nationalists' beyond just the Sunnis who resent the presence of U.S. and other foreign troops. 'There is a valid basis for some of the pro-withdrawal arguments,' he said, referring to recent statements by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.)."

Israel After Sharon

Israel After Sharon: "Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start the Fire' could be the soundtrack for what's happening in Israel--a frantic series of events that have dramatically changed the political landscape. Last summer's disengagement of Israeli military forces from Gaza and the dismantling of twenty-one settlements there and four in the northern West Bank was followed by the surprising victory of Histadrut Trade Union leader Amir Peretz over Shimon Peres to become head of the Labor Party. While Peres had been a loyal (some would say docile) partner for Sharon's Likud in a national unity government, Peretz--the first Moroccan Jew to lead a major party, former mayor of the southern development town of Sderot and firm believer in the creation of a true social democratic alternative to the free-market policies of Likud Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--immediately took the Labor Party out of the government. Unlike Sharon, Peretz believes there is a Palestinian partner for negotiations, and he considers the settlement enterprise to be a tremendous drain on Israel's economy and society. "

Monday, January 16, 2006

CNN Apologizes to Iran

Entertainment News Article Reuters.com: "In fact, what the Iranian president said was that 'Iran has the right to nuclear energy,' the official IRNA news agency reported. CNN later clarified in an apology on Sunday night."

Suicide Bombers Kill Dozens in Afghanistan

Suicide Bombers Kill Dozens in Afghanistan

Anger in the West Bank Helps Hamas Win Hearts - New York Times

The key question about Islamist participation in politics, let's call it the inclusion hypothesis, is whether when confronted with the mundane demands of politics the Islamists will put aside some of their ideological verities in order to get things done and in order to survive politically. There is ample evidence that non-Islamists routinely do just that, one might think of the National Religious party of Israel, for instance. Moreover, the Ak party of Turkey, arguably Islamist at its core, has manifested the same pragmatism. So,will Hamas be any different?
Anger in the West Bank Helps Hamas Win Hearts - New York Times: "'Of course there will have to be a national coalition with Hamas, but Fatah will lead it,' he said. 'Hamas doesn't want to take decisions and be responsible for governing. They want to block certain matters but have the blame go to Fatah.'
Is he afraid of Hamas? 'Hamas will have to accommodate with political reality and concentrate more on politics than on the conflict,' he said, then reflected the usual Palestinian conviction about powerlessness. 'Israel and the United States,' he said, 'want a Palestinian Authority that serves their interests.'"

Translator's Conviction Raises Legal Concerns

Annals of the Patriot Act. How will this look in the cold light of history?
Translator's Conviction Raises Legal Concerns: "A month after the trial, a female juror wrote to U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl, complaining that fellow jurors talked of terrorist attacks and their desire to teach the defendants a lesson. 'They had an agenda,' Juror 39 told The Washington Post in her first interview. 'People are so fearful that if you disagree with the government on one thing it makes you a terrorist.
'I have to plead guilty to being a coward,' Juror 39, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said of her vote to convict. 'It doesn't feel good, but I punked out.'"

Aoun launches attack on Khaddam

Aljazeera.Net - Aoun launches attack on Khaddam: "Michel Aoun, the Lebanese Christian leader, has launched a scathing attack on Syria's exiled former vice-president, accusing him of bearing responsibility for a string of assassinations.
On Saturday, Aoun called on Abdel-Halim Khaddam, an ex-Baath Party stalwart turned whistleblower who last month implicated Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, in the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, to publicly explain the killings"

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Aoun launches attack on Khaddam

Once the skeletons beginning walking out of the closets there are going to be many interesting revelations, and perhaps some pithy detail about the (mis)behavior of Lebanese and Syrian officials. We see a hint of that here, not just with Aoun's comments about Khaddam's culpability but also with the reference to President Emile Lahoud and his role in corruption.

The Daily Star - Politics - Aoun launches attack on Khaddam: "A statement issued by President Emile Lahoud's press office rejected Khaddam's claims the president was involved in corruption cases.
The statement called Khaddam's allegations 'rude,' adding that Khaddam himself was 'a symbol of corruption.'
'It is enough to check Khaddam's and his family's accounts and assets to realize that he is highly corrupt,' the statement said, adding that Lahoud had always made fighting corruption and protecting public money a priority."

Walter Cronkite: Time for U.S. to Leave Iraq

BREITBART.COM - Cronkite: Time for U.S. to Leave Iraq: "Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 conclusion that the Vietnam War was unwinnable keenly influenced public opinion then, said Sunday he'd say the same thing today about Iraq.
'It's my belief that we should get out now,' Cronkite said in a meeting with reporters. "

Khaddam forming exite government

Haaretz - Israel News - Search Results: "A former Syrian vice president said he is forming a government-in-exile, forecasting in remarks released yesterday that the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad will collapse by the end of the year.

Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who lives in Paris, also renewed his charge that Assad must have ordered the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri."

When Talk of Guns and Butter Includes Lives Lost

Readers will remember that William Nordhaus is the Yale economist who estimated the potential costs of the Iraq was as $1 trillion at a time when the adminstration was pooh-poohing the estimates of its own in-house chief economist that the war would likely cost in excess of $100 billion. The earlier articles may also be found on this blog.
When Talk of Guns and Butter Includes Lives Lost - New York Times: "Mr. Nordhaus is the economist who put the subject back on the table with the publication of a prescient prewar paper that compared the coming conflict to a 'giant role of the dice.' He warned that 'if the United States had a string of bad luck or misjudgments during or after the war, the outcome could reach $1.9 trillion,' once all the secondary costs over many years were included.
So far, the string of bad luck has materialized, and Mr. Nordhaus's forecast has been partially fulfilled. In recent studies by other economists, the high-end estimates of the war's actual cost, broadly measured, are already moving into the $1 trillion range. For starters, the outlay just for military operations totaled $251 billion through December, and that number is expected to double if the war runs a few more years."

Bahrain: In Tiny Arab State, Web Takes On Ruling Elite - New York Times

Few serious articles are published in the mainstream press on Bahrain, the small Gulf kingdom that has been a strategic base for the U.S. This piece by Neil MacFarquhar is, in my view, the best piece that I have seeon on island in a long, long time.
In Tiny Arab State, Web Takes On Ruling Elite - New York Times: "Bahrain, long a regional financial hub and a prime example of the power of the Internet to foment discontent, bills itself as a leader of political change in the Arab world. It is a claim echoed in praise from the United States, which considers Bahrain crucial for its many regional military ventures because the American Navy's Fifth Fleet is based here.
But in Bahrain, as across the Arab world, those pushing for democratic change want to end minority rule by a family, sect or a military clique.
The royal family here dominates, holding half the cabinet positions and the major posts in the security services and the University of Bahrain. "

Yet again, Frank Rich--Is Abramoff the New Monica? - New York Times

Rich's Sunday essays in the Times have been consistently penetrating and thoughtful, a must read.
Is Abramoff the New Monica? - New York Times: "They preached a take-no-prisoners strategy and a specific ideology - do away with taxes, privatize government, free business from any regulation - that changed Washington far more than Washington changed them. Their triumph can be found everywhere today, from Halliburton's no-bid contracts in Iraq to the K Street project, a Norquist-championed and DeLay-sanctioned operation to intimidate corporations with business before Congress into hiring exclusively Republican lobbyists like Mr. Abramoff.
But it's not only the genealogy of the Abramoff scandal that separates it from its predecessors. So does the distinctive odor of its possible criminality. In its financial shenanigans and some of its personnel, the Abramoff affair doesn't so much echo Teapot Dome as the business scandal that engulfed Mr. Bush's former No. 1 corporate patron, Enron, in our new century. The Abramoff scandal's pious trappings are sui generis as well. They adhere to the Karl Rove playbook that wraps every hardball White House tactic in godliness and exploits 'faith based' organizations as political machines to deliver the G.O.P.'s religious right base. "

Democracies are peaceful: The myth that shapes Bush's world

The myth that shapes Bush's world - Los Angeles Times: "THE PRESIDENT believes and often states, as if it were a self-evident truth, that 'democracies are peaceful countries.' This claim, which has been advanced in the past in regard to Christianity, socialism, Islam and ethical culture, is the postulate on which the foreign policy of the United States now rests. Balance of power, deterrence and punitive action have been abandoned in favor of a scheme to recast the political cultures of broad regions, something that would be difficult enough even with a flawless rationale because the power of even the most powerful country in the world is not adequate to transform the world at will.

Nor is the rationale flawless. It is possible to discover various statistical correlations among democracy and war and peace, depending on how they are defined and in what time frames. The chief pitfall in such social-science exercises is in weighing something such as, for example, the Mughal Campaign in Transoxiana, 1646-47, against something like, for example, World War II. Generally, a straightforward historical approach is better. And what does it show?"

Also see the new article in the National Interest.

Between Two Peoples--a tale of bifircated identity in Lebanon

Between Two Peoples: "On a brisk morning in late December, I squeezed into George Aslan's Chevrolet for the three-hour drive to Damascus. Usually, you have to book a seat in George's car several days in advance, but I didn't have any trouble getting a spot. Business for the Lebanese taxi driver has been slow lately.
Aslan has been running the Beirut-Damascus route every day for 43 years, and even the Lebanese civil war that raged between 1975 and 1990 didn't cut off the flow of travelers between the two capitals. But now, growing tension on the Lebanese-Syrian political front following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri last February and a number of murders since has spilled over to the people."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Palestinians at war as blood feuds follow Israeli pullout

Observer Palestinians at war as blood feuds follow Israeli pullout: "Law and order has collapsed in Gaza ahead of elections this month. Powerful clans, suddenly without a common enemy to unite them, are killing each other and seeking to sweep aside the heirs of Arafat, condemned as weak and corrupt"

Iran as victim of Sunni extremists

: "Deep in the lawless triangle connecting Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, eight terrified Iranian soldiers are being held hostage by a Sunni group that is vowing to 'slaughter' them if Teheran does not bow to its demands.
'We will chop their heads once our deadline is over,' Abdul Hameed Reeki, chief spokesman of the Jundallah or Brigade of God group, told the Sunday Telegraph, slowly drawing an index finger across his neck to demonstrate the seriousness of his intent."

Europe agency says U.S. is abusing rights

Chicago Tribune Europe agency says U.S. is abusing rights: "The head of a European investigation into alleged CIA prisons on the continent on Friday accused the United States of violating international human-rights law in its struggle against terrorism.

Dick Marty, the Swiss lawmaker leading the investigation on behalf of the Council of Europe, said there is no question the CIA is undertaking illegal activities in Europe in its transportation and detention of terrorist suspects.

'The strategy in place today respects neither human rights nor the Geneva Conventions,' Marty said at a news conference in Burgdorf. 'The current administration in Washington is trying to combat terrorism outside legal means, the rule of law.'

The Council of Europe, the continent's main human-rights watchdog, began its investigation after allegations surfaced in November that U.S. agents interrogated key Al Qaeda suspects at clandestine prisons in Eastern Europe and transported some suspects to other countries through Europe."

Planning to Fight Poverty From Outside the System - New York Times

Planning to Fight Poverty From Outside the System - New York Times: "provided an insider's view of the way America deploys its billions of dollars in foreign aid, and he seems determined to make it plain that the system is deeply flawed.
In recent public remarks, he has described it as 'constipated,' splintered among too many federal agencies and tied in knots by hundreds of Congressional directives and special budget measures. He seems especially galled that policy is overly driven by domestic interest groups, including major charities, that get a large chunk of his agency's annual $14 billion budget."

NSA used city police as trackers

If accurate, this story indicates a significant new dimension to the Bush adminstration's domestic spying activities.
NSA used city police as trackers - baltimoresun.com: "The National Security Agency used law enforcement agencies, including the Baltimore Police Department, to track members of a city anti-war group as they prepared for protests outside the sprawling Fort Meade facility, internal NSA documents show.

The target of the clandestine surveillance was the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a group loosely affiliated with the local chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, whose members include many veteran city peace activists with a history of nonviolent civil disobedience."

Pacifying Iraq: Insurgent Scenarios

Pacifying Iraq: Insurgent Scenarios: "Iraq's armed national resistance is willing to support an honorable American troop withdrawal and recognize 'the interests of the US as a superpower,' according to a Baghdad source with intimate knowledge of the insurgents. He was interviewed this week in Amman, where he had driven twenty hours from Baghdad for conversations.
I interviewed this source, who insisted on anonymity, to explore the political aims of the resistance movement against the US occupation. Is theirs only a decentralized military strategy, or is there a shared set of demands that might lead to peace? The source, who is known and respected by several American media outlets, comes from one of Baghdad's once-mixed neighborhoods of Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians. In his mid-40s, he ekes out a living as a guide and translator for visiting reporters and occasional peace activists. The source spoke with urgency about the need for greater American understanding of the Iraqi resistance, so far faceless in the West. "

Syria agrees to demarcate Shebaa area

The Daily Star - Politics - Syria agrees to demarcate Shebaa area: "Syria has agreed to demarcate its borders with Lebanon, including the disputed Shebaa Farms area, according to sources quoted by Al-Arabiyya. During a news broadcast aired Friday, the satellite television channel said reports of the agreement had come from unidentified high-ranking sources in Syria, Egypt and France."

More on the Olive Trees

title: "Settlers have chopped down thousands of olive trees - more than 2,000 according to the defense minister's count - since April, and all the Yesha Council had to say about it was that it could be provocation. A response such as this from an institutionalized settler body is an indication that these are not the actions of a group of renegades or loose cannons, but ideological vandalism backed by the settlers and the authorities. The awakening of the government and attorney general, who said the Palestinian victims should receive compensation, is late and unconvincing. It is difficult to believe that such talk will lead to indictments.

The government next week is supposed to order the evacuation of the illegal outpost Amona, as well as the Jewish settlement in the heart of Hebron's wholesale market, in keeping with a High Court of Justice directive. Once again, the state has been dragged into an evacuation operation that could have been avoided had law enforcement authorities prevented the invasion from the outset. When it comes to both the tree-choppers and evacuation, the transition government must flex its muscles so that the message of determination reaches its destination."

And now a message from the people who were cheerleaders for the war in Iraq

Risky Business

Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical

Whether one agrees with George Bush's critique of Islam or not, he puts himself and the U.S. in an untenable position trying to declare what is and isn't appropriate for Islam. Given the low esteem that the U.S. presently enjoys in the Muslim world, not to mention the fact that many people around the world abhor Bush, the chance of such commentary having a significant positive effective in the 'ummah is low indeed. He would be far better off emphasizing shared values and his respect for Islam as a faith.
Reunified Islam: Unlikely but Not Entirely Radical

Friday, January 13, 2006

Iran and Israel will be kings of the Middle East jungle

One of the great ironies of the US invasion of Iraq is that it has propelled Iran, a country that the US has devoted enormous effort for 25 years to confronting, into a position of geo-political hegemony. Many regional experts, myself included, foresaw this as a likely outcome of the invasion, but the U.S. adminstration has no time for your skeptical views. The adminstration "knew better". This article by the veteran correspondent David Hirst does a very fine job of analyzing the redistribution of power to Iran, as well as to Israel.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian daily comment Iran and Israel will be kings of the Middle East jungle: "In March 2003, before US troops reached Baghdad, Middle East scholar Volker Perthes wrote that while the risks of this 'illegitimate' war were enormous, those of 'a US failure to stabilise postwar Iraq would be even higher'. With those words looking increasingly prophetic, no one, in picturing the implications of such failure, is now more lurid than the Bush administration. The direness of the prospect has become its strongest argument for 'staying the course', but for others it is already a given, amounting to 'the greatest strategic disaster in US history', in the words of the retired US general William Odom."

Thursday, January 12, 2006


The New York Review of Books: ON NSA SPYING: A LETTER TO CONGRESS: "We are scholars of constitutional law and former government officials. We write in our individual capacities as citizens concerned by the Bush administration's National Security Agency domestic spying program, as reported in The New York Times, and in particular to respond to the Justice Department's December 22, 2005, letter to the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees setting forth the administration's defense of the program.[1] Although the program's secrecy prevents us from being privy to all of its details, the Justice Department's defense of what it concedes was secret and warrantless electronic surveillance of persons within the United States fails to identify any plausible legal authority for such surveillance. Accordingly the program appears on its face to violate existing law.
The basic legal question here is not new. In 1978, after an extensive investigation of the privacy violations associated with foreign intelligence surveillance programs, Congress and the President enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Pub. L. 95-511, 92 Stat. 1783. FISA comprehensively regulates electronic surveillance within the United States, striking a careful balance between protecting civil liberties and preserving the 'vitally important government purpose' of obtaining valuable intelligence in order to safeguard national security. S. Rep. No. 95-604, pt. 1, at 9 (1977). "

Soldiers sue for reimbursement - The Boston Globe

Soldiers sue for reimbursement - The Boston Globe: "Four Massachusetts National Guard soldiers, called to active duty after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, filed a federal lawsuit yesterday, arguing they were forced to pay for their own lodging, meals, and commuting expenses while they were protecting the state from terrorism."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Who is uprooting olive trees?

Haaretz - Israel News - Search Results: "The military and police did nothing to prevent the felling of Palestinian olive trees despite having the names of the settlers responsible, the head of the Shin Bet security service claimed Tuesday.

Yuval Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the Shin Bet had handed over the names of members of the 'hilltop youth' from the West Bank settlements of Yitzhar and Itamar who were involved in uprooting the olive trees, but the security forces refrained from taking any action.

According to Diskin, the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police 'are turning a blind eye, and doing nothing to deal with this phenomenon.'"

Hamas platform pushes for armed fight

Haaretz - Israel News - Hamas platform pushes for armed fight: "Hamas published its official platform for the upcoming Palestinian elections, which proved to be more moderate than either its 1988 charter or public statements made by its leaders throughout the ensuing years.

Diplomatically, the platform does not differ substantially from that of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital - although it does not specify that such a state should be confined to the West Bank and Gaza. "

Army's Iraq Work Assailed by Briton

Army's Iraq Work Assailed by Briton: "n an article published this week in the Army magazine Military Review, British Brig. Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was deputy commander of a program to train the Iraqi military, said American officers in Iraq displayed such 'cultural insensitivity' that it 'arguably amounted to institutional racism' and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency. The Army has been slow to adapt its tactics, he argues, and its approach during the early stages of the occupation 'exacerbated the task it now faces by alienating significant sections of the population.'"

Trial Ordered for Britons in Leak of Memo on Al Jazeera - Los Angeles Times

Trial Ordered for Britons in Leak of Memo on Al Jazeera - Los Angeles Times: "A British court Tuesday ordered two men to face trial on charges of leaking a memo that reportedly described a plan by President Bush to bomb Arabic television channel Al Jazeera.

Civil servant David Keogh and Leo O'Connor, a researcher who worked for a former British lawmaker, face a preliminary hearing Jan. 24 on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act. Their lawyers are pushing for the secret document to be disclosed. "

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Has the US already lost in Iraq?

This is a piece that I missed in November.
Rolling Stone :: "The only remaining question is not how to win the war, but how to end it "
Also see the January Current History for General Bill Odom's powerful article, "Withdraw Now."

A Philosopher's Vision of Fundamentalism - New York Times

A Philosopher's Vision of Fundamentalism - New York Times: "Mr. Appiah also argues that cosmopolitanism is far different from the universalism of Islamic fundamentalism, which he calls a 'malign universalism.' In fact, universalism, he suggests, has often led into dark and unsavory realms, even in the Age of Enlightenment: he cites Edmund Burke's chastisement of Rousseau, for example, whose five children were summarily tossed into orphanages: 'A lover of his kind, but a hater of his kindred.' There are dangers in universalism and dangers too in its sweeping claims, perhaps as many as there are in the kind of narrow allegiance to kith and kin that Mr. Appiah also criticizes. "

Israel limits Palestinian election campaign

The Daily Star - Politics - Israel limits Palestinian election campaign: "Israel gave the green light Monday for Palestinian parliamentary candidates to campaign in occupied East Jerusalem but only with permission and ruled out authorization for anyone from Hamas.
Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra stopped short of announcing whether residents would be able to cast their votes"

Blair should be impeached, former British Lt.-Gen. says

Sir Michael Rose is one of Britain's most respected general officers.
The Globe and Mail: Blair should be impeached, former British Lt.-Gen. says: "Britain's former UN military commander in Bosnia has said that Prime Minister Tony Blair should be impeached over his decision to go to war in Iraq.
Gen. Sir Michael Rose said Mr. Blair's claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction had turned out not to be true, adding that he would have resigned rather than take troops to war on such a flawed case."

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Shi'i Muslims of Lebanon

This is a remarkable book by a fine young scholar. It is by far the freshest, best researched book that I have seen an Arab Shi'i community.
Deeb, L.: An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi'i Lebanon.

Iran Cleric Struggles to Get Alternative Views to TV Screens

Los Angeles Times: Iran Cleric Struggles to Get Alternative Views to TV Screens: "In the back room of a Tehran apartment, a young assistant was busy hanging indigo-blue fabric on yellow walls. A small video camera was set up to face a news anchor's desk, and a big hole in the wall awaited the last-minute delivery of a soundproof glass pane.

The set was thrown together to tape the inaugural broadcast of Saba TV, a station aspiring to provide an alternative voice, in Persian and from Iran, to programming monopolized by hard-liners. From the makeshift studio in the capital, the taped program was ferried to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to be beamed via satellite into millions of Iranian homes that night. But the show did not go on.

Iranian security agents stopped the producer carrying the tape from getting off the plane in Dubai last month, holding up Saba TV's launch and leading human rights organizations to complain about a crackdown on free expression.

The station is financed by one of the Islamic Republic's oldest revolutionaries, Mehdi Karroubi. In the first round of last year's presidential election, the former parliament speaker trailed hard-line Islamist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who ultimately won the office, by only about 640,000 votes. Karroubi has charged that the election was rigged and has been quoted as saying he 'took a nap and awoke to see about 1 million votes shifted.'"

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Revelations (Khaddam)

Al-Ahram Weekly Region Commentary: Revelations:
"The writer is head of the Syrian Research and Legal Studies Centre. "

The Daily Star - Politics - Senior Iraqi official says Cabinet talking directly with militant groups

The Daily Star - Politics - Senior Iraqi official says Cabinet talking directly with militant groups: "The Iraqi government is talking directly to all militant groups who are willing to communicate but no commitments have been made to any of them, a senior Iraqi official said Sunday. President Jalal Talabani has instructed aides to 'listen and talk to anyone who wants to approach us,' said Wafiq al-Samarei, Talabani's adviser for security affairs.
'Yes, many groups are communicating with us. We are listening to them and providing them with advice with open arms and transparency,' he said.
Samarei spoke to reporters after a meeting between Talabani and Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front."

A Paradise Drowning

A Paradise Drowning - New York Times: "So Mr. Bush should come and talk to fishermen who endure the mutating climate every day - and then he should ponder the implications of rising seas for Florida, the Carolinas, Long Island. The Maldives may be the canary in the world's coal mine.
'Our message to the U.S. is as simple as this,' said Mr. Shareef, the government spokesman. 'Sea level rise is not just a phenomenon which is just going to engulf the Maldives and then stop. If it affects us tomorrow, it will affect you the day after.'"

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The fox speaks--more on Khaddam

Al-Ahram Weekly Region The fox speaks

He never intended an equitable solution in Israel

Observer He never intended an equitable solution in Israel: "In a remarkable transformation, the man now lying in a coma in an Israeli hospital has emerged these past five years as the single most dominant political personality in Israel's history, overshadowing even Ben-Gurion's mythic role as founding father of the state.
Most Israelis came to believe that Ariel Sharon was the only person able to solve the Palestinian conflict. Alternatively, if the conflict were to continue, he was the man they trusted to manage it in a manner that assured Israel's stability and security.
This view of Sharon is only partly correct. He was, indeed, uniquely able to make the compromises without which an agreement with the Palestinians is unattainable. It is difficult to imagine another Israeli leader who could retain popular support for the return of most of the West Bank, along the lines suggested in the Clinton proposal of January 2001, and compensate Palestinians for the retention by Israel of the major settlement blocs adjoining the pre-1967 border with comparable territory within Israel. The same is true of allowing the Arab-populated parts of Jerusalem to serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.
If it were true that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians incorporating these unavoidable 'concessions' were the strategic goal of the 'new' Sharon, his departure from the political scene would be grievous. But Sharon had no intention of making such concessions, nor is there any basis for the expectation that there will ever be a Palestinian leader willing or able to accept an agreement that does not include these provisions."

The Real Choice in Iraq

This is an eminently sensible OPED by Brzezinski that ends with the advice that the president should expand his circle of advisors, and begins with the observation that we need a much more nuanced sense of possible outcomes. rather a black and white view of winning vs. losing. On the latter point, there is nothing in the president's behavior that indicates any doubt on his part of the fantasy construction that so preoccupies him, namely the idea of a stable democratic peace. Until he comes to understand that the outcome that imagines, however soothing, has no relationship to any likely outcome in Iraq he will see any advice that contradicts his fantasy as defeatist and hostile.
One of the sad lessons of past crises, including the revolution in Iran, which Ziggy knows so well, is that it is very hard to challenge the prevailing White House paradigm. Remember, it was November 1978 before the Carter White House began to seriously grapple with the fact that the Shah was probably done. In contract, attentive newspaper readers had figured that out two months before.

The Real Choice in Iraq

"The requisite first step to that end is for the president to break out of his political cocoon. His policymaking and his speeches are the products of the true believers around him who are largely responsible for the mess in Iraq. They have a special stake in their definition of victory, and they reinforce his convictions instead of refining his judgments. The president badly needs to widen his circle of advisers. Why not consult some esteemed Republicans and Democrats not seeking public office -- say, Warren Rudman or Colin Powell or Lee Hamilton or George Mitchell -- regarding the definition of an attainable yet tolerable outcome in Iraq?"

The Scoop from 'State of War'

The Scoop from 'State of War' MediaChannel.org: "I don't want to review New York Times reporter James Risen's book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, as much as share the raw, new powerful allegations it contains."

Reach Out and Touch No One - One of Maureen's best columns in week

She nails it.
Reach Out and Touch No One - New York Times: "It must have been like a performance by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, which boils down the great plays and books to their essence. Proust is 'I like cookies.' Othello raps that he left Desdemona 'all alona, didn't telephona.' 'The Iliad' and 'The Odyssey' condense into 'The Idiodity.' 'Henry V' is 'A king's gotta do what a king's gotta do,' and 'Antony and Cleopatra' is 'Never get involved in Middle Eastern affairs.'
Beyond taking a class picture ringed around Mr. Bush's bizarrely empty desk - a mesmerizing blend of 'Sunset Boulevard,' 'The Last Supper' and a 'Sopranos' ad - the former secretaries of state and defense had to make the most of their brief colloquy with W."

Early Warning by William M. Arkin

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com: "On Wednesday, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) wrote to President Bush stating that though she -- as a member of the so-called 'gang of eight' -- had been briefed on this and other highly classified programs, she has now 'reviewed the law and now believe that the practice of briefing only certain Members of the intelligence committees violates the specific requirements of the National Security Act of 1947.'
I think that Rep. Harman is going to find that the President indeed acted under his authority in the Constitution, under the National Security Act, and under a web of other statutes, including implicit Congressional consent. If Rep. Harmon desires to rewrite the National Security Act for the modern era, she'd have my support. But short of changing existing law and implementing better rules for Congressional oversight of secret programs, little will come of the NSA scandal.
The problem is that the Congress has become so co-opted into the secret world that it has sacrificed its own Constitutional independence and authority. "

Friday, January 06, 2006

All he had to do was listen...

Entertainment News Article Reuters.com: "Paul Bremer, who led the U.S. civilian occupation authority in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, has admitted the United States did not anticipate the insurgency in the country, NBC Television said on Friday.
Bremer, interviewed by the network in connection with release of his book on Iraq, recounted the decision to disband the Iraqi army quickly after arriving in Baghdad, a move many experts consider a major miscalculation.
When asked who was to blame for the subsequent Iraqi rebellion, in which thousands of Iraqis and Americans have died, Bremer said 'we really didn't see the insurgency coming,' the network said in a news release. "

The Cost of The War: as much as $ 2 trillion (yes with a "T")

TPMCafe The Cost of The War: "A new study by two leading academic experts suggests that the costs of the Iraq war will be substantially higher than previously reckoned. In a paper presented to this week's Allied Social Sciences Association annual meeting in Boston MA., Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes and Columbia University Professor and Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz calculate that the war is likely to cost the United States a minimum of nearly one trillion dollars and potentially over $2 trillion."

Abdel Halim Khaddam interview in Asharq Alawsat

Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English): "Former Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam escalated his criticism of the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad, in response to the campaign against him by pillars of the regime, following his explosive interview with Al Arabiya.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq al Awsat from Paris, where he has lived since resigning his post in June 2005, Khaddam indicated he wants to oust the regime through a popular uprising but that change had to come from within. He said the wanted opposition groups to �create the right atmosphere to topple the regime�. "

Poll: U.S. Troops� Support for Bush, War in Iraq Declined During 2005 - 01/02/06 11:29

DefenseNews.com - Poll: U.S. Troops� Support for Bush, War in Iraq Declined During 2005 - 01/02/06 11:29: "Support for U.S. President George W. Bush and for the war in Iraq has slipped significantly in the last year among members of the U.S. military�s professional core, according to the 2005 Military Times Poll.
Approval of the president�s Iraq policy fell 9 percentage points from 2004; a bare majority, 54 percent, now say they view his performance on Iraq as favorable. Support for his overall performance fell 11 points, to 60 percent, among active-duty readers of the Military Times papers. Support both for Bush and for the war in Iraq remains significantly higher than in the public as a whole.
The poll also found diminished optimism that U.S. goals in Iraq can be accomplished, and a somewhat smaller drop in support for the decision to go to war in 2003. "

Another Head Lopped off by Rumsfeld- Agency Head Quits After Rumsfeld Clash: Report - 01/06/06 16:38

DefenseNews.com - Agency Head Quits After Rumsfeld Clash: Report - 01/06/06 16:38: "The head of the U.S. intelligence agency that analyzes data from military spy satellites and U2 aircraft will leave his post in June, officials said on Jan. 6.
James Clapper, a retired Air Force general, will step down as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency on June 13, three months short of his fifth anniversary as head of the defense department operation, officials said.
The Baltimore Sun, which first reported Clapper's departure, said the NGA director was being forced out after angering Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on an issue involving intelligence reform. "

Aljazeera.Net - Khaddam plans to topple al-Assad

Aljazeera.Net - Khaddam plans to topple al-Assad: "Abd sl-Halim Khaddam told the Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that he was rallying Syrian opposition parties to 'create the right atmosphere for the Syrian people to topple the regime'."

U.K. 'U-turn' on Iran bomb claims

United Press International - Intl. Intelligence - U.K. 'U-turn' on Iran bomb claims: "British parliamentarians and soldiers' families have accused the government of making politically motivated accusations that Iran was involved in killing troops in southern Iraq, after government officials reportedly admitted there was no evidence for doing so.
Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Iran in October not to interfere with Iraqi affairs, after the British ambassador to Iraq accused the Islamic republic of supplying explosive devices to Iraqi militia for use against British troops.
However government officials have now reportedly acknowledged that there is no evidence, or even credible intelligence, connecting the government in Tehran to the sophisticated bombs which have killed 10 British soldiers in the past eight months.
The apparent U-turn comes three months after Blair told a Downing Street press conference there was evidence to suggest that a type of infra-red triggered explosive device used in deadly attacks against British troops 'and elsewhere in Iraq' did originate in Iran."

Bashar is cut off from reality per Khaddam

L'Orient-Le Jour: "Sa deuxi�me intervention sur une cha�ne arabe, pr�vue avant-hier mercredi sur al-Jazira, avait �t� ajourn�e sur une demande saoudo-�gyptienne, le temps de voir comment le r�gime de Damas allait r�agir. Cela n�a pas emp�ch� � alors qu�un �missaire iranien se trouve � Damas, et que Abdallah d�Arabie multiplie ses contacts avec Hosni Moubarak et Bachar el-Assad entre autres � l�ex-vice-pr�sident syrien, Abdel Halim Khaddam, de l�cher hier sur France3 une nouvelle bombe : � Il faut que Bachar el-Assad parte, � la maison, en prison� L�important est de sauver la Syrie de ce r�gime �, a-t-il dit, assurant que ceux qui sont derri�re les assassinats au Liban � continueront � tuer, car leur but est d�instaurer le chaos dans ce pays �."

Microsoft Shuts Down Chinese Blog

Perhaps Mr. Gates should put as much effort in providing software for people to thwart dictators as he has put into Xbox. Arguably, that would e a more lasting contribution to well-being of humanity.
Microsoft Shuts Down Chinese Blog - New York Times: "Microsoft Corp. has shut down the Internet journal of a Chinese blogger that discussed politically sensitive issues including a recent strike at a Beijing newspaper.
The action came amid criticism by free-speech activists of foreign technology companies that help the communist government enforce censorship or silence dissent in order to be allowed into China's market."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Millions for 'Strategic' Languages

If designed sensibly, the infusion of federal funds for foreign language study will be a net gain for the country.
Inside Higher Ed :: Millions for 'Strategic' Languages: "President Bush is expected to tell dozens of college and university presidents tomorrow of an administration plan to spend hundreds of millions of additional dollars on training in foreign languages deemed critical to the United States. Arabic, other Middle Eastern languages, and Chinese are expected to be a focus � potentially providing for a significant expansion of study by American students, who are notoriously monolingual."

Sharon and Israel's future - Call for US caution as relevance of �road map� blurs

FT.com / Middle East & Africa / Sharon and Israel's future - Call for US caution as relevance of �road map� blurs: "Amid all the praise for Ariel Sharon as a man of enormous courage, �a wonderful and historic figure� with a vision of peace, the Bush administration made no mention on Thursday of what had once been its own strategy for ending the conflict with the Palestinians � the �road map�.

Analysts said Mr Sharon�s departure might remove the last pretence of what passed for a coherent US policy towards a two-state settlement, a solution that President George W. Bush once said could be reached during his time in office, though he later retracted this.
Edward Walker, president of the Middle East Institute and former assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said the US-backed road map peace plan was �fundamentally dead� some time ago and that Mr Sharon�s absence left the Bush administration�s policy �hanging by a thread�. "

Johnny Burns and Dexter Filkins--a fan rave

NYO - News Story 1: "This Odd Pair Is the Most Excellent Buddy Team in Journalism: Biblically Bearded John Burns, Cocoa Beach, Fla.'s Speedy Dexter Filkins, Two Brave Timesmen Serving You�Different Styles, Mutual Regard"

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: January 01, 2006 - January 07, 2006 Archives

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: January 01, 2006 - January 07, 2006 Archives: "JTA: Pat Robertson announces that God struck down Ariel Sharon for dividing the Land of Israel."

An open letter to Jack Straw by Patrick Seale

The Daily Star - Politics - An open letter to Jack Straw: "Late last month, in the dying days of the U.K. presidency of the EU, you did something which puzzled and angered a great many people. On 12 December, you quashed a report by EU diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah which sharply criticised Israel for completing the seizure of East Jerusalem and cutting it off from its Arab hinterland.
You were reported as saying that it was not 'appropriate' to publish the report. I call on you to explain your decision in the columns of this newspaper.
I am not alone in believing that, by your decision, you betrayed the Palestinian people, so often betrayed by Britain in the past; you betrayed the EU diplomats who wrote the report; and you betrayed all those who still believe in a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict."

NSA whistleblower asks to testify

NSA whistleblower asks to testify
"A former National Security Agency official wants to tell Congress about electronic intelligence programs that he asserts were carried out illegally by the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Russ Tice, a whistleblower who was dismissed from the NSA last year, stated in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he is prepared to testify about highly classified Special Access Programs, or SAPs, that were improperly carried out by both the NSA and the DIA.
'I intend to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while I was an intelligence officer with the National Security Agency and with the Defense Intelligence Agency,' Mr. Tice stated in the Dec. 16 letters, copies of which were obtained "

Saving the House

To give him his due, David Brooks has emerged as one of the more level-headed commenatator from the right side of the aisle. This column is exhibit one.
Moreover, the weekly News Hours analysis Brooks and Shields is the most succinct, and often most interesting punditry on TV.

Saving the House - New York Times: "Finally, today before noon, fire Bob Ney as chairman of the House Administration Committee. For God's sake, Republicans, show a little moral revulsion.
Back in the dim recesses of my mind, I remember a party that thought of itself as a reform, or even a revolutionary movement. That party used to be known as the Republican Party. I wonder if it still exists. "

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Khaddam to Form Government-in-Exile: Sharaa to Testify

SyriaComment.com: Khaddam to Form Government-in-Exile: Sharaa to Testify: "Khaddam is moving to form a government-in-exile, as-Seyassah reports below. Asad and Sharaa have been asked to testify before the Hariri investigators. According to ABC news, Syria has agreed that Sharaa will testify. Anyone interested in what I had to say on the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer can read the transcript of the show: SYRIA REFUTES INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM"

Syria to allow UN interview of Sharaa

The Daily Star - Politics - Syria to allow UN interview of Sharaa: "As international calls for Syria to cooperate 'more fully' with the UN probe into the murder of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri intensifed on Wednesday from French President Jacques Chirac, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the Saudi King Abdullah, Syria confirmed it had agreed to the probe's request to interview its Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa.
'Syria must answer the demands' of the international inquiry into Hariri's killing, Chirac was quoted by a spokesman as saying during talks with his visiting Egyptian counterpart Mubarak on Wednesday over the Syrian issue.
The latest UN commission demands include requests to interview Syrian President Bashar Assad and Sharaa, and Syria was given a 10-day deadline, ending on January 10, to respond.
'Everything that destabilizes Lebanon will end up turning back against Syria,' warned the president, who was a personal friend of the slain Hariri."

Palestine: the forgotten reality, by Alain Gresh

Palestine: the forgotten reality, by Alain Gresh

Haaretz - Israel News - U.S. pushes for PA election to be held on schedule

Haaretz - Israel News - U.S. pushes for PA election to be held on schedule: "Israel did not interfere in a news conference called by Hamas officials and leaders of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, held yesterday at the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem. The Islamic Movement's leader Sheikh Ra'ed Salah was accompanied by Mohammad Abu Tir, No. 2 on the Hamas list for the parliamentary election who was recently released from prison. The two presented a video and pictures they said were taken under the Temple Mount and showed excavations near the Western Wall Tunnel, and a synagogue they said was under construction, both endangering the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Other senior Hamas leaders in East Jerusalem and the Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, Akram Sabri, also took part in the briefing, which was held simultaneously with the launching of the Hamas campaign in front of the Gaza home of the movement's founder, Ahmed Yassin."

Logical Considerations: The "single question"

Logical Considerations: The "single question": "...One of the very few who broke ranks is Middle East specialist Augustus Richard Norton, who pointed out, I'm quoting him, "As fantasies about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were unmasked, the Bush administration increasingly stressed the democratic transformation of Iraq, and scholars jumped on the democratization bandwagon." Before the fantasies were unmaked, there was of course occasional invocation of the standard pieties. In the most extensive study of official jusitifications for the Iraq invasion, a thick volume by John Prados, you�ll have to look hard for terms like �decmocracy.� Nothing in the index, and I couldn�t find one. While they�re asking us to appreciate the sincerity of their eloquent orations about the sudden conversion to democratic transformation, US and British leaders are also informing us that they are among the most brazen liars in history. And we know that, because they drove their countries to war on the grounds of what they consistently called a �single question: will Saddam abandon his weapons destruction programs?� That was repeated stressed as the single question. By August 2003, when the tale was falling to pieces, the press reported, this is the New York Times, �as the search for illegal weapons in Iraq continues without success, the Bush administration has moved to emphasize a different rationale for the war against Saddam Hussein, using Iraq as the lynchpin to transform the Mideast and thereby reduce the terrorist threat to the United States.� More accurately, as the writer knew, to risk enhancing the terrorist threat, which happened, as was anticipated, and as their own intelligence agencies confirmed. This alone suffices to undermine the credibility of the different rationale, but that�s only the bare beginning."

Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News

Fascinating web site with good material on Lebanon.
Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News

Palestinians Kick Off Campaign Amid Signs of 2nd Postponement

As I have noted here before, the Israeli government's threat not to permit Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem to vote, if Hamas was on the ballot, was a clever move to provide Abu Mazen an escape hatch for postponing the legislative elections scheduled for later this month. Given the electoral strength of Hamas do not be surprised to see Abu Mazen use the escape hatch in order to forestall an Hamas victory against the splintered and partially discredited Fatah candidates.
Palestinians Kick Off Campaign Amid Signs of 2nd Postponement

Hamade: Lahoud's relation with Hariri one of surveillance

Hamade's statement comes amidst renewed pressures on President Emile Lahoud to resign.
The Daily Star - Politics - Hamade: Lahoud's relation with Hariri one of surveillance: "Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade Monday said President Emile Lahoud's relationship with the late Premier Rafik Hariri was one of 'mukhabarat and surveillance in the first degree.' Hamade mocked a statement issued by Lahoud Sunday that his relationship with assassinated Premier Rafik Hariri had always been 'respectful and positive.'
'The president's relationship with Hariri was one of mukhabarat and surveillance in the first degree - just as Abdel-Halim Khaddam said,' Hamade said, referring to comments made Friday by former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam.
The MP added that the 'reports written by the Lebanese intelligence apparatus and Anjar (Syria's former main intelligence base) against the Syrian command assert that fact.'
Hamade, also a member of the Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc, said he found it 'pitiful and funny' the presidency 'has become almost a member of the Syrian People's Council and is misleading the Lebanese people.'"

The Daily Star - Politics - Anti-Hizbullah leaflets spread concern about Sidon's unity

he Daily Star - Politics - Anti-Hizbullah leaflets spread concern about Sidon's unity: "A statement signed by the 'Supporters of the New Lebanon' was circulated Tuesday in South Lebanon criticizing Hizbullah. Similar leaflets were distributed last week, both are viewed as an attempt to undermine the port city's unity and coexistence between Shiites and Christians.
The new statement accused Hizbullah of driving the country to civil war, saying 'you are a bunch of Muslim mercenaries and far from the democratic regime of the state,' it continued, 'your actions reflect barbarism, arrogance and hegemony.'
The statement mentioned a member of the Loyalty to Human Beings Movement who was beaten and insulted by Hizbullah members in Roueiss on Monday, December 14, 2005 during a traffic violation by a member of the Saksaki family.
The statement condemned the incident, saying it recalled the Syrian regime's humiliating actions and stressing that the Syrian style has been adapted by it's friends, particularly Hizbullah. The statement noted Hizbullah creates a state inside a state."

Mob War In the Mideast

Mob War In the Mideast

Bush could bypass new torture ban - The Boston Globe

Bush seeks to circumvent the just-enacted and plainly worded legal prohibiton on torture by reserve the right to interpret the prohibition as he sees fit. In particular, the president would "reserve the right to use harsher methods [namely, torture] in special situations involving national security", in the words of an unnamed official.
Bush could bypass new torture ban - The Boston Globe
After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a ''signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law -- declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.
''The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief," Bush wrote, adding that this approach ''will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President . . . of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."
Some legal specialists said yesterday that the president's signing statement, which was posted on the White House website but had gone unnoticed over the New Year's weekend, raises serious questions about whether he intends to follow the law.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Israel proposes 'defense wall' through town of Ghajar

Ghajar is a small town to the east of Marjayoun. It is of no great significance except that it sits atop the Hasbani river. As early as 1980, if not before, Israel was working on revetments along the Hasbani (on Lebanese territory) to expedite the flow of water into Israel. The town is now divided between a "liberated" Lebanese portion and an occupied Syrian portion.
The Daily Star - Politics - Israel proposes 'defense wall' through town of Ghajar: "Israeli security officials Tuesday proposed building a 'defense wall' through the divided town of Ghajar, which straddles the border of occupied Syrian and Lebanese territories, as a means of protecting Israelis from attack by Lebanese militias.
The Shin Bet security agency will present Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon its recommendation Wednesday to build a barrier in Ghajar to prevent attacks on the southern part of the town.
Half of Ghajar lies on land Israel captured from Syria and Lebanon in the 1967 Middle East war."

Evidence of Pentagon Surveillance

Inside Higher Ed :: Evidence of Pentagon Surveillance: "he document, obtained by NBC News, was generated by the Defense Department�s Counterintelligence Field Activity agency, and it includes information on more than 1,500 �suspicious incidents� across the country over a recent 10-month period. In eight pages from the document that highlight all instances where protests or demonstrations were monitored during the time period � which have been posted online by NBC News � 10 of the 43 total instances listed have direct ties to activities at colleges and universities.
The institutions listed are New York University (twice), the State University of New York at Albany (twice), Southern Connecticut State University, the City College of New York, the University of California at Santa Cruz, �a NJ Area University,� the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin."

Part 2 of the Mehlis Report on the assasination of Rafiq al-Hariri

The Stupid Tree

Dar Al Hayat: "It never once occurred to me that there was actually something called the 'stupid tree.' But coincidence has come into play in showing that this tree truly exists. I was flipping through the pages of an international magazine and one of its ads, as a passing joke, referred to the existence of this tree, with this strange name, on an island in the Pacific Ocean. I was curious and decided to search for the truth about the existence of this tree and the origin of its name. However, I didn't have any luck. At first, I thought it was a joke that was meant to make the advertisement funny. After some time passed, as luck would have it, I met the Australian ambassador to a European country at a social occasion. We had a discussion over dinner about many things concerning Australia and its surroundings. Curiosity again prompted me to ask about whether there was such a 'stupid tree' in that part of the world. I was quite astonished when the ambassador confirmed that such a tree existed, in a forest on an island in the south Pacific, believed to be Papau New Guinea. He knew that there was a huge, tall tree covering a large portion of the area in question, and that such a tree had become rare, due to environmental change. The discussion made me curious to learn more."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Bolton at the UN - The Arsonist

American Prospect Online - The Arsonist: "Bolton�s stance on the MDGs caused an uproar. In addition to the G-77 bloc of developing nations that had the most to lose from the elimination of MDGs, the British, who had recently played host to a G8 summit focusing on African poverty, were particularly livid. Even the United States itself seemed to back away. In a meeting with representatives of nongovernmental organizations shortly after Bolton�s edits were leaked to The Washington Post for an August 25 story, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns refused to con?rm or deny that, per Bolton, the United States was dropping its support of the MDGs. To those in the room, wise to the oblique lingua franca of the diplomatic world, Burns� pullback hinted that Bolton had forged his own policy on the MDGs -- ahead of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The Prospect has learned that, in the end, it took Rice�s personal intervention to set things right. On September 5 she participated in a conference call with UN Secretary-General Ko? Annan and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw on the subject of UN reform. The next day, Bolton sent a letter to his UN counterparts relenting on the issue. Finally, to put all lingering questions about U.S. support of the MDGs to rest, President Bush himself stated America�s ?rm commitment to them in his September 14 speech to the UN General Assembly. "

Current Issue - January 2006

Current Issue - January 2006

Of particular interest is William Odom's "Withdraw Now", which is juxtaposed to John McCain's "Stay to Win".

See Odom's earlier commentary cited here.

A Line in the Sand

A Line in the Sand - New York Times: "In certain respects, the proposed 450-mile barrier is a model of planning reduced to its most primitive - the desire to divide black from white, us from them. Conceived in 2002 to protect Israel from terrorists, it has been extolled as a necessary tool for self-preservation. It has also been assailed as a formula for ghettoization and a symbol of colonialism.
But on a fundamental level, it is also a piece of architecture. And its construction has generated an architectural debate as charged as any in the political realm. "

UN asks to meet Syrian president

BBC NEWS Middle East UN asks to meet Syrian president: "A UN panel investigating the killing of ex-Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri wants to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Farouq Shara.
The request follows the expulsion by the governing Baath Party in Syria of the former Syrian vice-president, Abdul Halim Khaddam. "

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence - New York Times

Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence - New York Times: "For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making. My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States."

The Army, Faced With Its Limits

The Army, Faced With Its Limits - New York Times: "ONE million men and women serve in the United States Army, so why is it proving nearly impossible to keep a mere 150,000 of them in Iraq? "

2006: A Pivot for History?

2006: A Pivot for History?: "The secretary general now has a chance to to establish a more positive legacy, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has passed the word that the administration will work with him on that. U.N. officials have found a warmer welcome in Washington in recent months as they consult on Lebanon and Syria; Iraq; the U.N.'s role in resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis; the threat of an avian flu pandemic; and other issues that the Bush administration had insisted on handling alone.
Annan and Rice are conceivably rare winners in the leadership sweepstakes of 2006. So, oddly, is Angela Merkel, Schroeder's successor in Germany. After besting Schroeder in the destructive test of nerves he launched when voters there deadlocked, Merkel assembled a Cabinet of heavyweights who must work with her or listen to her blame them for provoking new elections if they don't. And she saved December's European Union summit from humiliating stalemate.
Russia's oil revenue and China's continuing economic ascent make Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao distressingly secure at home this year. But the biggest leadership news, for better or worse, should come out of Iraq, which in this hinge year will overcome or succumb to the centrifugal forces tearing at it. Those pressures have become too intense to be put off another year."