April 02, 2006

I'm Back

Michael J. Totten

I'm back after a few weeks of more traveling and have plenty of stories ready to go as soon as I write them.

Many thanks to pals Andrew Apostolou, Tony Badran, and Lee Smith for keeping the site going while I've been away.

Before we get started again, I should link to a TCS piece that was put on hold for four months and was finally published about one of the world's least written about rogue states, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This one, I think, is better and more worth your time than the piece I wrote about the Greek side of the island a while ago. Check it out.

Much more to follow. See if you can guess where I went in the comments. (Hint: I went somewhere I wasn't supposed to go.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 2, 2006 07:29 AM
Comments

Welcome back!

Not supposed to go? Could be Israel, southern Iraq, or Iran.

Or were you in Mecca???

That would be great indeed.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at April 2, 2006 07:39 AM

Varosha?

Posted by: Kyle at April 2, 2006 07:43 AM

Michael, it's great to have you back! It was good to see you again last night. Looking forward to your new posts.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at April 2, 2006 07:47 AM

So how was the weather in Tabriz?

Posted by: Ozymandias at April 2, 2006 09:01 AM

The land of the failed Ophthalmologist?

Posted by: Abu Kais at April 2, 2006 10:04 AM

White Hart Lane?

Posted by: Apostolou at April 2, 2006 11:13 AM

Saudi Arabia?? Would love to hear someones real opinion of that "Nation". The Wahabbi sect that is causing so many deaths and unhappy lives was founded there.

Posted by: gene at April 2, 2006 12:33 PM

I really hope it was Tehran; I'd like to see some on-the-ground reporting from there. I certainly wouldn't be disappointed about Damascus, either. Or Kashmir or Pakistan, but those do seem less likely given your interests in the Arab neighborhoods.

Whereever you were that required such secrecy, I'm very glad to see that you're back, safe and sound.

Posted by: diane wilson at April 2, 2006 12:39 PM

Your guest bloggers did very well; hadn't seen them much in the comments. (Spent more time with neo-neocon; great blog, very different from yours; too bad much fewer of her comments here.)

I would guess any of the two Kurdish future additions to autonomous (if not independent) Kurdistan: Kurdish Iran or Kurdish Syria. Since you've already visited Hezbollah.

How is your Arabic coming, could you understand much of what the Kurds were saying?

I'm really, really glad you're safe; and back; and the TCS article was good. But "rogue state"? Sort of like "illegal" immigrant in America, no? Just because others label it (from something done), not because of what it's doing.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Libertay Dad at April 2, 2006 01:11 PM

I guess Iran or maybe Syria.

Posted by: Stephen Reeves at April 2, 2006 05:41 PM

Dare I guess, Palestine??

We missed you.

Posted by: Ruby at April 2, 2006 06:38 PM

The piece on Cyprus was interesting. Wanted to make one point - when MJT says Though the division of Cyprus has more to do with nationalism than religion, what I saw was not encouraging. he's making a false distinction. In much of the world there is no real distinction between nationalism and religion. There is no linguistic difference to speak of between the "Bosnians" and the "Serbs" in Sarajevo - it is a religious difference. Before the expulsion in 1920 many "Greeks" in Asia Minor spoke Turkish as their first language, it was their religion that made them "Greek." In America for many people religion is a matter of personal choice, this makes it hard for Americans to grasp to what extent religious identity is really an ethnic identity in Europe and the Middle East.

Posted by: Vanya at April 2, 2006 07:20 PM

Welcome back Michael!! Iran?

Posted by: Cathy at April 2, 2006 10:34 PM

Welcome back, Michael! I'm guessing from somewhere innnn....Syria?

Posted by: Natasha at April 2, 2006 11:43 PM

Careful or you'll go to Guantanamo next.

Posted by: Jack Bog at April 3, 2006 01:51 AM

Baghdad

Posted by: american in europe at April 3, 2006 03:08 AM

Syria.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at April 3, 2006 04:02 AM

I bet its New Jersey. Did you go to New Jersey?

Posted by: NYC at April 3, 2006 06:16 AM

I'm the only one who's guessing the Sunni Triangle? For shame!

Posted by: Pete (Alois) at April 3, 2006 07:01 AM

I think he just went to Disneyland...

Posted by: Barry at April 3, 2006 07:32 AM

Were you visiting Kamal Qadir in prison? I thought it odd that your guest bloggers never mentioned him.

Posted by: Kurdish Freedom at April 3, 2006 08:01 AM

Oregon?

Posted by: BagDaddy at April 3, 2006 08:19 AM

How was the weather in Kurdish Iran? My guess because you were so very close in your last post prior to this one.

Posted by: PineKnot at April 3, 2006 08:41 AM

North Korea.

Posted by: Lee J. Cockrell at April 3, 2006 09:03 AM

The belly of the beast -- Washington DC!

Welcome back, Michael. You're doing an incredible job.

Posted by: Daniel in Brookline at April 3, 2006 09:07 AM

I guess Iran. I hope it was Iran. I also hope that you make a coffee table book with all your fabulous pix and commentary Michael. Sign me uop for an advance copy. Welcome home.

Posted by: Jane Woodworth at April 3, 2006 09:50 AM

Was it a strip club? I bet you're not supposed to go to one of those.

Posted by: Dave Ruddell at April 3, 2006 10:27 AM

Cool, Turkish Cyprus. One of the interesting things about that place is that since only Turkey recognizes it, it's the only country with which it has an extradition treaty.

So if you do something really really bad, consider North Cyprus for all you fugitive refuge needs.

Posted by: Moonbat_One at April 3, 2006 12:13 PM

"Rogue state"? Which definition are you using? Since this term is generally applied by the U.S. Department of State (after a brief fling with States of Concern, courtesy of Madeleine Albright), I guess we have to ask them. I look and I look. Hm, Cuba is a rogue state? A high government official in Inda calls one of our supposed allies, Pakistan, a rogue state? Not very helpful.

The term seems to refer to states engaged in, or suspected of engaging in, development of illegitimate WMD, and/or export of terrorism. To take an analogous example in the Indian Ocean, does the government of the areas of Sri Lanka held by the Tamil Tigers meet the definition of "rogue state"? Well, they do have a government. They engage in suicide bomber terrorism. However, they don't export terror AFAIK, and they don't have a WMD development program. Now, let's say they forswore suicide bomber terrorism, admitted U.N. peacekeeping troops to hold a negotiated line, and were recognized by, say, India. Arguably that would be an improvement, wouldn't it? But it would put them at about the level of this Northern Republic of Turkish Cyprus that Totten calls a "rogue state". Therefore, the Tamil Tigers must be something worse than a rogue state now, by any of the "definitions" I can find, even though it currently has none of the features described in those definitions.

Or hell, maybe we just have Michael Totten playing Humpty Dumpty with words again. I'm, like, so surprised. Shocked, even.

Posted by: mememe at April 3, 2006 12:44 PM

Vanya,

When you wrote "Before the expulsion in 1920 many "Greeks" in Asia Minor spoke Turkish as their first language, it was their religion that made them "Greek," " the term many is not really accurate in this context. Remarkably few (less than 1.5%) of the refugees spoke Turkish primarily. This was a common insult due to the accents and idiom -- which as it turned out were closer to classical and Byzantine Greek.

Popular prejudice of mainland Greeks in lableing these people as Turks as well as Greek state interest in making cosmopolitain refugges loyal nationalists not make for accurate ethnography.

It is also notworthy that this exchange was modeled on an earlier "exchanges" where huge numbers of Greeks in Bulgaria were deported south, and Slavs and Bulgarians north in actions that were retroactively legitimized.

Posted by: G at April 3, 2006 12:58 PM

Am I the only one who finds this "see if you can guess where I was" game a little toolish and condescending?

I feel like every guess only serves to inflate MJT's ballooning sense of self-importance.

Where did you go, Michael? We really want to know.

In case anyone is interested, yesterday I went to the grocery store. I'm not going to blog about it, though.

Posted by: blah at April 3, 2006 01:24 PM

blah--

You just DID blog about your trip to the grocery store. Whoops.

Does this have to become a snarkfest? I guess if I wanted to have a famous blog like Michael's I could travel all over the Middle East too. So could you, for that matter. Know what I'm sayin?

Posted by: Pete (Alois) at April 3, 2006 03:10 PM

Welcome back and nice job while gone. Its especially good that no one blew you up while away.

Posted by: pw at April 3, 2006 05:07 PM

Rogue means outside of norms. A self-declared state, not recongized by the UN or any country besides the country that created it (though use of arms), easily can be called a rogue state.

Reading thumbnail histories of the Cyprus invasion and aftermath (by sources outside of Cyprus), the act self-declaration of the state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was considered an act fundimentally opposed to the process of a solution by all parties, including neutral ones, except the Turks.

The act of asserting statehood was a definatively "rogue" act.

Totten is not writing a "rogue people," a "rogue community," or a "rogue minority." Specifically in its illegal self-declared statehood, it is clearly considered a "rogue state" in the literal use of English, labels and categories by a single bureaucracy, within a single country, not withstanding.

Posted by: ST at April 3, 2006 06:38 PM

The riots in France's sububs were about social conditions not religion. Hitchens tried to peddle this bullshit but it went nowhere.

Posted by: drydock at April 4, 2006 12:31 AM

But when your religion tells you to:

1)Aspire to jihad, at the expensive of any other profession - farmer, carpenter, merchant, artist - thus rendering you unemployable in any land without a large number of state funded Islamic preachers,

2)Not listen to infidels, including women, infidel teachers, making you uneducatable in any land without a large number of male, Islamic teachers,

3)Think of yourself as a superior being to infidel customers, again making you unemployable in any land without a large number of wealthy Islamic clients, with which to do business,

... where exactly does "religion" end and "social condition" begin?

Posted by: Adriane at April 4, 2006 02:26 AM

It can't be Iran - neither the U.S. nor Iran restricts American citizens from visiting - in fact, it's a particularly easy place to get into around in, as long as you are a man and don't have to cover up.

As far as I know, Cuba is the only entire country that Michael could truthfully say he "wasn't supposed to go" to, and even then, technically, the restriction is not on visitng per se, it's on spending money there, but that would be fair enough.

Apart from that, there are parts of various countries that are off-limits to tourists, generally for military reasons, and Mecca, which is restricted on religious grounds.

So, if he's being truthful, I think it's got to be one of those places, unless all he means is that he didn't get the requisite visa, in which case it's not much of a clue, because pretty much the whole world is off limits without a visa.

BTW - isn't the most obvious problem with describing northern Cyprus as a "rogue state" that it's not a state at all. The best it could be is a "rogue pretend-state".

Posted by: J.B.S. at April 4, 2006 03:31 AM

Pete- If you're insinuating jealousy on my part, then I do get what you're saying. You're wrong, but we're on the same page at least.

I just happen to think the "Where's Waldo?" game MJT is playing here is a little kindergarten. For the record, my guess is Iran. But only because he said he was going to try and go to Iran a few weeks ago.

Also for the record, I didn't blog about my trip to the grocery store. I mearly announced I took one. Had I blogged about it, I would have regaled you with stories of fresh and not-so-fresh produce, specials on chicken cutlets, and a dizzying selection of sliced bread.

Posted by: blah at April 4, 2006 07:49 AM

Had to be Iran....you were just next door!

Posted by: JR at April 4, 2006 09:19 AM

It's gotta be Iran.

Posted by: Dave at April 4, 2006 09:39 AM

Glad to know that you made it back safe.

I am guessing it was either in the Turkish Kurd area or Iran. Though a jaunt to someplace in Central Asia (one of the 'Stans) wouldn't be surprising.

Posted by: Sanderson at April 4, 2006 09:45 AM

Mt. Ararat to check on the remains of Noah's Ark?

Posted by: JA at April 4, 2006 11:27 AM

I've heard that Syria has been off limits to Americans recently? Denying of entry/visas,etc
any truth to this?

Posted by: Rommel at April 4, 2006 05:07 PM

rommel- Syria is actually not denying visas to Americans. They have tightened up the rules that they follow. It was always policy that you needed to get a visa in advance in your home country, but in practice, you could usually get one at the (especially Lebanese) border. They are now being stricter about these border visas, making tourists wait indefinitely (10 or 12 hour waits are not uncommon) for "permission" from Damascus. Of course, there are no problems if you follow the official rules and get the visa back home.

I am with another poster .. outside of Mecca and some other religious sites, Cuba, and some militarized zones, I can't think of anywhere he is "not supposed to go". I am expecting it is another (shocking) exaggeration.

Posted by: amy at April 4, 2006 11:41 PM

I'm thinking it can't be Syria. There isn't even a State Department travel warning (not that those mean jack) on Syria like there is on Lebanon, Israel, etc and Americans can fairly easily get visas (though not as easily as in they used to). I'm American and I was there 3 weeks ago...but maybe I didn't get the same memo MJT got.

I'm with an earlier poster in saying it's gotta be Mecca or bust.

Posted by: Ethan at April 5, 2006 12:18 AM

From definition:rogue.state search at Google, first few definitions are all:

rogue state
n : a Third World state that possesses weapons of mass destruction and sponsors terrorism

Interestingly, however, there is no clear definition that everyone agrees on. Which makes it perfect Humpty Dumpty semantic territory. What was my point. Totten just selected the most vivid, scary term he could find to characterize a part of Cyprus that has been relatively peaceful, that has been under U.N. peacekeeping for a very long time, that does not sponsor terrorism, and that does not have WMD. Selecting vivid, scary terms to characterize parts of the world like that has a name, with a fairly precise meaning: w call it fear mongering.

If "rogue state" means merely "a state outside international norms", I suppose we could include the Isle of Man (terrorist money laundering center because of its banking laws, certainly), the Vatican (a self-anointed theocracy whose slim claim to being an independent nation is undermined by the fact that it's guarded by Swiss soldiers), Taiwan (invaded by Nationalist Chinese who unseated the locals, not recognized by the PRC, no U.N. seat as a nation), and literally dozens of others, I'm sure.

We all know the connotations of "rogue state", however. Pretending that you don't is just baahing with a particular flock of sheep. Your willingness to baah with these sheep is fairly good evidence for a depressing reality: fear-mongering works.

Posted by: mememe at April 5, 2006 08:54 AM

Mememe: Selecting vivid, scary terms to characterize parts of the world like that has a name, with a fairly precise meaning: w call it fear mongering.

Maybe you should read the article before getting hysterical about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 5, 2006 09:04 AM

I did read it. Just to make sure about which of us is more prone to hysteria. Calling the supposed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus a "rogue state", when that term is generally used to describe major human right violators that export terror and/or develop outlaw WMD, is hysterical. It's that simple. If only because it's hysterically funny that a journalist with some apparent aspiration to be taken seriously would use the term in this case -- and apparently for no other purpose than to get attention. "Ooh," whispers Michael Totten's devoted audience, "a rogue state in Northern Cyprus. We're so scared. And we didn't even know about it. Michael Totten is so well-informed. What would we do without him out there, selling stuff for us to fear?

Check back in the next time this Turkish Cypriot Republic threatens during "peace" negotiations to turn the rest of Cyprus in "a sea of fire". Or lobs a missile over Greece. Or invites Zarqawi to a reception feast. You might actually get a receptive audience among people interested in something more than Alice in Wonderland treatments of international relations.

In the meantime, please note that one of George W. Bush's more recent appointees to the board of USIP, Stephen Krasner is (in)famous for saying (even in the title of an academic press book!) that the principle of national sovereignty is just "organized hypocrisy". (He was the less controversial of two appointees, the other being Daniel Pipes.) This Northern Republic is "rogue" because it's only recognized as sovereign by Turkey? Stephen Krasner would yawn. "Does it matter?" he might ask? "If it doesn't, ignore it." I guess because he's one of those dry academics who disdains terms like "rogue state" as almost uselessly vague, and thus doesn't get the attention that real writers, who can write real vividly, can so easily command. But then again, Krasner doesn't need attention, because he has real power, in an administration that is loftily floating above any basis in reality, an administration that purports to create reality on a daily basis. Thus, it's convenient to treat national sovereignty as sacrosanct when it's convenient make a lot of noise along those lines, the better to distract the public from real policy objectives. But it's better to call it "organized hypocrisy" in the quieter councils. (Almost said "cabals", but that's like, too vivid, y'know?) It gives you a lot of semantic slack, doesn't it?

Posted by: mememe at April 6, 2006 06:37 PM

Memememe,

I do not believe you actually read the article. I'm a big fan of North Cyprus. I'll tell anyone, including my Greek Cypriot friend Andrew who guest-blogged for me here, that I prefer the Turkish side to the Greek side. Accusing me of trying to make people afraid of North Cyprus is hysterically stupid.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 6, 2006 06:52 PM

What a passel of maroons you have commenting here, Mike. Are they regulars? Makes me wonder if the one going on about his or her shopping trip isn't exaggerating a bit. FreshDirect, perhaps?

A saying I think you might have heard 'over there': The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

Posted by: nichevo at April 6, 2006 10:46 PM

Glad you're back. Can't wait to read more.

Posted by: TallDave at April 7, 2006 02:34 PM

"Before we get started again, I should link to a TCS piece that was put on hold for four months and was finally published about one of the world's least written about rogue states, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus."

I can't prove it to you, Michael, but I did read the article, and found in it one of the most appealing features of your recent writing: an affection for, and attraction to, the regions you've been covering. I hope it inspires more travel to those areas by Americans.

What I can prove to you, however, is that you did write "rogue state." You certainly can't deny that. And I can offer you the frequently-quoted statistic that only about one link in ten is actually clicked. Casual perusers of your blog are most likely left with the impression that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a rogue state that they haven't had the misfortune of hearing about before, like one of those weird squirming remnants left in the wake of the Soviet breakup; that you're a diligent and brave correspondent venturing behind enemy lines to write about oppressive, WMD-ambitious, terror-exporting states We Should All Know About, when in fact you've only written a combination of relatively balanced political analysis and diverting travelogue. It was clearly your calling the place a "rogue state" that I took exception to, as would (I believe) any reasonable observer of foreign affairs in that region.

I mean, geez, guy, I can't even find a travel advisory warning about it on the State Department site.

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html

While the U.S. may have its diplomatic reasons to not recognize the Northern Republic, it is certainly engaged with its government anyway:

"The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Turkish Cypriot authorities as part of its overall policy to promote human rights."

However, any such discussions on Northern Republic soil are most likely just a flimsy pretext for American diplomatic personnel to take a vacation in this delightful area. As you can tell by reading the report

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51547.htm

there aren't any major religious-intolerance incidents to discuss that don't also occur with approximately equal frequency in certain other Rogue States like, say, Los Angeles.

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a rogue state? By whose definition, Michael? A definition with enough slack in it for Sudan's government to apply the term with equal or greater accuracy to Darfur?

Honestly, if I'd seen "Rogue State" in TCS's title for your piece, I'd cut you a little slack, because I know they occasionally muck around at that level, sometimes to the detriment of your message. But no--that "rogue state" is on your blog, for which you have sole and total responsibility. A quick re-read of Orwell's Politics and the English Language might be in order.

Just to clear the air a bit, I retract my charges of "stupid" and "hysterical", and will reduce the charges down to "incitement of the ignorant and those too lazy to read the actual article to say stupid and hysterical things about a part of the world they know nothing about, just to whet their attention for more of the same." (Or ... wait a minute: maybe the penalties for that crime are worse? Oh, whatever. I await your plea-bargain in any case.)

Posted by: mememe at April 7, 2006 09:00 PM

Mememe,

Clearly you take the phrase "rogue state" more seriously than I do. And it means something more specific to you than it does to me.

The fact that the entire world, aside from Turkey, refuses to recognize TRNC's right to exist puts it well outside the community of nations regardless of its rather benign nature today. Even North Korea is recognized. It's dumb that one is recognized and the other isn't, but I'm not the one who decides such things.

I had no intention of distorting the content of my own article. If I really want to whip up fear of North Cyprus (which would be retarded), I would have done so in the article itself. Far more people read the TCS Web site than my own Web site, after all.

I did read the article, and found in it one of the most appealing features of your recent writing: an affection for, and attraction to, the regions you've been covering.

Perhaps you missed what I've written about Lebanon, Turkey, and Northern Iraq. I can't get back to Lebanon soon enough. It's nice to be home, but I miss Beirut terribly already. It is, in many ways, my favorite place in the world.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 7, 2006 10:07 PM

You mean there's a *non*serious use of the term "rogue state", Michael? I google on it and immediately see William Blum, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman applying it to the U.S. (with their usual heavy-handed irony). Delving further, a foreign minister of India was applying it to Pakistan at one point. Clearly it's a term of abuse to a great degree. Clearly, some states merit that level of abuse. But either way, use of the term is generally deadly serious (even if somewhat hysterical in many cases). I would appreciate any references to *un*serious uses of the term (apart from satires on Bush's "Axis of Evil" and the like.) Exactly how someone could arrive at the the conclusion that the Northern Republic is a "rogue state" by any common understanding of the term continues to escape me. For one thing, if it's only recognized by Turkey, after a stalemated civil war, it's not even properly a state, much less a rogue state. Probably the Turks hope it gets recognized as a state one day, then they'll have a referendum by Turk Cypriots on the question of whether the Northern Republic is part of Turkey. And probably everybody recognizes that the Northern Republic is just a convenient fiction for Turkey.

Is Taiwan a rogue state? How does it not fit the loose definition you seem to be using?

"Perhaps you missed what I've written about Lebanon, Turkey, and Northern Iraq."

I did not miss these, they were precisely why I used the term "regions" in the plural.

Until you supply me with a definition of "rogue state" that's more than "outside norms" (Monaco would qualify, as would Vuanatu) or "not recognized (hey, how about your beloved Kurdistan? It enjoys no recognition except from the vast majority of Kurds!) I'll persist in the belief that your use of the term in this context was just a pathetic attention-grab, and not responsible journalism. (Though I admit the article linked seems to qualify as that -- why the double standard? I mean, at least say you were joking or something.)

Posted by: mememe at April 8, 2006 12:00 PM

Alternately, me me me ME me me me, you could be constructive, and suggest the typography required to indicate irony, jk, etc., so that your tiny humorless literal mind needn't put in too much exercise.

I'm sure Mike will be glad to use it. Hey Mike, kindly remember that: no more humor, showmanship, hyperbole or flava on your blog here anymore, the rubes can't hack it.

If I object, it will be in re that you seem to be more sympathetic to your subject than I am, but that's why there are horse races - opinions differ.

And inasmuch as anyone need earn the right to an opinion, at least an informed one, you certainly seem to be taking one approach to informing yours, one with honorable antecedents.

I hear 'Hezbollah' and think 'Bloody handed murderers of epic savagery, where's the number for Dial-a-JDAM,' you have made yourself able to hear 'Hezbollah' and think 'Very interesting, a bad rep but then this disarming fellow Hussein has said all kinds of nice things about them, can't presume to judge without seeing,' and then put yourself out to the extent of going and seeing.

And now you have seen. You did not have to have blood shed before your eyes, you just got a taste of it and seem to have intuited enough of the rest. Please answer me two questions:

1) Would you put yourself in Hussein's hands again if he said he was sorry and made nice?

1a) If Hussein were repudiated, by communique or by car bomb, and another Hezbollah PR person wanted to re-invite you as before, would you do so?

2) How was their operational security? I.e., were you allowed your watch, cell phone, tape/video recorder, or anything else that could have been used to track you and/or the more dangerous people you met?

I'm sure there were plenty of guns and lookouts around, but theoretically, could the CIA (etc., yada yada) have used you as a dupe to track down Hez. leadership? Do you think they feared that? Do you think you could have gotten away with doing that, or could now?

Or by the time you are meeting Grand Sheik Whomever, do they go to the X-Files length of making you strip and change clothes?

2a) Did you detect anyone around you at these meetings who you thought was dangerous and/or crazy enough to attack or kill you despite your guarantees? How about if you had committed a gaffe? In other words, how was their discipline?

Just curious, and no, I do not work for any government.

Posted by: nichevo at April 8, 2006 05:05 PM

1) Would you put yourself in Hussein's hands again if he said he was sorry and made nice?

It depends on whether or not I thought he was sincere.

1a) If Hussein were repudiated, by communique or by car bomb, and another Hezbollah PR person wanted to re-invite you as before, would you do so?

Maybe. It would depend on why Hussein were repudiated.

2) How was their operational security?

Extraordinarily high.

I.e., were you allowed your watch, cell phone, tape/video recorder, or anything else that could have been used to track you and/or the more dangerous people you met?

Only after having it screened and checked again afterwards.

I'm sure there were plenty of guns and lookouts around, but theoretically, could the CIA (etc., yada yada) have used you as a dupe to track down Hez. leadership?

Yes.

Do you think they feared that?

Abso-frigging-lutely.

Do you think you could have gotten away with doing that, or could now?

Yes then. Now no.

Or by the time you are meeting Grand Sheik Whomever, do they go to the X-Files length of making you strip and change clothes?

No.

2a) Did you detect anyone around you at these meetings who you thought was dangerous and/or crazy enough to attack or kill you despite your guarantees?

No.

How about if you had committed a gaffe? In other words, how was their discipline?

A gaffe would be a problem. If I did anything threatening I would have been violently assaulted very quickly.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 8, 2006 06:19 PM

The fact that the entire world, aside from Turkey, refuses to recognize TRNC's right to exist puts it well outside the community of nations regardless of its rather benign nature today. Even North Korea is recognized. It's dumb that one is recognized and the other isn't, but I'm not the one who decides such things.

You misunderstand the nature of recognition in international law. It has nothing to do with approving or disapproving the nature of the prevailing regime, but is a test of whether the legal criteria of national sovereignty have been met. Americans sometimes have trouble understanding this because successive Administrations used non-recognition of the communist government of China as a piece of political posturing, in defiance of international norms. (Recognition of governments as opposed to states is a related, but separate issue, but the bottom line is the same: in international law the test is whether the government is actually exercising the prerogatives of national sovereignty, not whether or not it is composed of people you would like to have dinner with.)

If I were you, I would be a little more wary of wading into subject about which I knew little, dispensing epithets such as "dumb". You risk inviting those with greater knowledge to reflect on the irony.

Posted by: J.B.S. at April 8, 2006 08:59 PM

"Alternately, me me me ME me me me, you could be constructive, and suggest the typography required to indicate irony, jk, etc., so that your tiny humorless literal mind needn't put in too much exercise."

Oh, you mean like Totten putting quotes around "rogue state" in his original posting, so as to signal "don't take me seriously"? Not a bad idea, except that he'd then also be nodding in the direction of some idiot what had actually called it a rogue state directly, in all seriousness. So far, however, in my web searches, I haven't found an idiot that stupid.

"I'm sure Mike will be glad to use it. Hey Mike, kindly remember that: no more humor, showmanship, hyperbole or flava on your blog here anymore, the rubes can't hack it."

I think what we have here in fact is Totten pandering on his blog to the kinds of rubes who litter his comment section with knee-jerk anti-Islamic, anti-Arab jabs and diatribes. While also linking (in this case) a very interesting article and reasonable article about Cyprus at TCS for those among us who don't have to move our lips when we read. Both sides of his mouth .... good marketing perhaps, but somewhat lacking in journalistic integrity, or any other integrity for that matter.

As for his mild comeback that I obviously take the term "rogue state" more seriously than he does, check this out, from his own "Saud-Free Arabia":

----
Saudi Arabia's anti-American grievances are obscene; we aren't Islamic, we have a decadent liberal culture, we don't hate Jews, and our women don't cover their faces or heads. We have serious grievances against them whether the U.S. government wants to admit it in public or not. They run a brutal police state, provide financial support for terrorists, brainwash children to hate "infidels," enable the poisonous culture that incubated Al Qaeda, and use gushers of petrodollars to export the most reactionary and jihadist strand of Islam to the rest of the planet.

President Bush's foreign policy is adrift. Perhaps he could flush the Saudi bats out of the attic in his next public address. If the Saudis wont clean up their rank political slum (and there's little reason to believe they will) it's time we publicly declared their country the triangulating back-stabbing terror-mongering rogue state that it is. Give em the rogue state treatment while were at it: termination of diplomatic relations and American support for the democratic opposition -- such as it is.
----

Now, this is still hyperbole in the use of the term "rogue state", I think. But it makes it clear that he understands that at least a few criteria should be met (bad human rights record, history of sponsoring terrorism, in this case) before you can get away with applying even loosey-goosey term like "rogue state." But what diagnosis do we have from Totten for the Northern Republic? That it's a rogue state in the lights of every nation in the world except Turkey. Well, can I add "U.S.A." to Turkey? After all, it's not on any list of rogue states I can find at www.state.gov. In fact, I haven't found it on anybody's list. Perhaps we should ask a real expert, like a U.S. diplomat who has vacationed in the Northern Republic after spending five minutes "discussing" the evidence of religious intolerance in the form of some graffiti spraypainted at the back of a church, before retiring from his "rogue state" monitoring duties and heading off to bask in the sun on the beaches of this "rogue state".

Posted by: mememe at April 9, 2006 10:18 AM

I must retract -- in fact, a more careful search on "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" and "rogue state" reveals no shortage of idiots. Some saying that the TRNC is a rogue state. But also Turks calling Greece a "rogue state". And opponents of EU membership for Turkey calling Turkey a "rogue state". This list could go on.

Why Totten wants to be associated with such badmouthing idiots is quite beyond me. (Unless it's because he must pander to a large section of his audience.) And why he can't admit that he used a term inaccurately is also beyond me. Maybe it's because he's an asshole. Hey, wait! Don't get so excited! By "asshole", I mean "a human being equipped with an anus" (which is most of us, right?) Oh, go ahead, be offended anyway. Obviously, some people take the word "asshole" far more seriously than I do. They should lighten up or something. Nothing I can do about it, though. Except maybe to burn all their books just to make sure they don't have any dictionaries they can wave in my face in an argument.

Posted by: mememe at April 9, 2006 11:10 AM

mememe,

Surely you have something better to get worked up about. If I wanted to whip up fear of North Cyprus I would never have written the TCS article, nor would I have linked to it here. This really ought to be obvious.

I already explained to you what I meant by "rogue state." If you think it's not the best term, fine. It's not the best term.

But accusing me of "pandering" is silly. Who or what am I supposedly pandering to? People who hate Turks? My audience is primarily American, not Greek, Armenian, or Kurdish. I like Turkey quite a lot, and have already written that I think Istanbul is the greatest Islamic city on earth. My wife and I have considered moving there. You don't understand me at all.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2006 11:21 AM

"... accusing me of "pandering" is silly. Who or what am I supposedly pandering to?"

It's glaringly obvious who you would be pandering to by applying the term "rogue state" to the TRNC. Your comment section is full of people who love the little thrill of being clued into a supposed new threat, but who can't read carefully and critically to save their lives.

You've got some choices here as a real journalist. You can portray the Middle East one-sidely as a festering maw of terror, poverty, extremism. You can (and increasingly do) portray the Middle East for what it is -- an amazing diversity of cultures, with surprisingly peaceful and tolerant societies, but with lots of political problems that also lead to terror, poverty and extremism. But you can't have it both ways. Can you cannily subdivide your audience into the semi-literate and/or alarmist and the literate and more reasoning? And get away with it? No. Calling the TRNC a "rogue state" in one breath, then writing a thoughtful piece about it without doubling back and commenting on the irony of that epithet, might be considered a disengenuous attempt to have it both ways. But ultimately, you can't.

Well, on second thought, given the nature of the blogosphere, rife with out-of-context quoting, you can. To one audience, you're the Michael Totten who IDed a little-noticed "rogue state". To another, you're someone who IDed a new tourist attraction. To yet another, someone who came up with a relatively balanced and nuanced analysis of the situation on Cyprus. I don't have a problem with #2 and #3. But if you also want to be the Michael Totten of #1, you've got a problem.

Would you do a biographical sketch of a major Kurdish leader in the Iraqi parliament starting off with "X is one of the least written about war criminals", as prelude to a long piece about his interesting political career, with no mention of any war crimes, even if he was involved in some questionable activities during some war or other? (It's a rare Kurdish leader who wasn't, after all.) Then shrug off the objections saying, "OK, 'war criminal' isn't the best term"?

If you want to say that the TRNC is a diplomatic Potemkin Village, a now-blocked, almost-certainly failed, sneak path to Turkish annexation of northern Cyprus, I wouldn't nitpick what few flaws that characterization might have. But calling it a rogue state reflects either near-total cluelessness about the meaning of the term (unlikely, given what I've quoted from your own writing showing that you have a few more clues than that) or you're pandering, playing on phobias and hatred, in which case it hardly matters to whom you pander. Oh, there are other possibilities -- you got very sloppy, or you were joking, lamely. But you haven't copped to either one, despite ample opportunity to do that. So I'll go with "pandering" for the time being.

Posted by: mememe at April 9, 2006 02:16 PM

Your comment section is full of people who love the little thrill of being clued into a supposed new threat, but who can't read carefully and critically to save their lives.

My comment section is also full of knee-jerkers on the other side. I'm not pandering to them either.

I suggest you stop trying to psychoanalyze me and manufacture secret agendas. You don't know me, and the harder you try the more you prove it to anyone who does. Your cartoonish idea of who I am, what I think, and why I do what I do is preposterous. Not a soul who knows me in person, whether they agree with my opinions or not, would think you're even remotely close to the mark here. Give it up.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 9, 2006 02:28 PM

What an interesting give-and-take on the
issue of Northern Cyprus. Mememe sounds at times like
the Turkish equivalent of Colonel Sampson on steroids , but overall I enjoyed his spirited defense of Dinktashland.

Here's hoping that Greek and Turkish politicians
rise to the occasion and come to some kind of agreement over Cyprus. We need someone on the Turkish side such as Turgat Ozal, but, alas we will not get his likes from the Motherlanders.

Posted by: eu=4thReich at April 9, 2006 02:34 PM

So MJT delivering a much deserved smackdown to mememe aside, back to the original point of these comments... The place you weren't supposed to go was back to the place you just came from, eh? Back to Iraq?

Count me as one of many who are eager for your next installment so we can hear all about it.

Posted by: J.Kende at April 10, 2006 01:19 AM

J.Kende: The place you weren't supposed to go was back to the place you just came from, eh?

No, but the not-supposed-to-go-there thing is just a hint, not completely literal. I'll get to it shortly...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 10, 2006 03:47 AM
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