March 31, 2006

Not a compliment

John Mearsheimer, of "Smearsheimer and Wilt" fame, quotes Hitchens' article in Slate in his defence. It would appear, however, that Smearesheimer has not read Hitchens. The greatest Old Leysian ended his piece, as Tony Bardan pointed out, with this magnificent last paragraph:
Wishfulness has led them to seriously mischaracterize the origins of the problem and to produce an article that is redeemed from complete dullness and mediocrity only by being slightly but unmistakably smelly.
Somebody should inform Smearsheimer that Hitchens is not complimenting him on his choice of aftershave.

Andrew Apostolou (unsmeared pyjamas).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 09:48 PM | Comments (11)

March 28, 2006

London policing 2

Reza Mortadi, a 29 year old Iranian, has been summonsed by the Police and charged following complaints made at the "March for Free Expression." Mr Mortadi had displayed some of the Danish cartoons. Here is Reza at the rally. Here is Maryam Namazie's speech.

Update: here is a picture of the Police speaking to Mr Moradi (from Yahoo! News).


Andrew Apostolou (indignant pyjamas).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 05:15 AM | Comments (21)

March 27, 2006

Not so independent journalism

The New York Times had the usual, and now standard, credulous article about al-Jazeera, with a focus on its new attempt to enter the English-language market. We are significantly informed that on al-Jazeera:
Guests have questioned the right of the Saud family to rule Saudi Arabia.
No surprise there given that the channel is controlled by Qatar which does not have close relations with the next door Gulf kleptocracy. Such questions do not elevate al-Jazeera to the level of true journalism.

As for the notion that al-Jazeera is about debate, the questions that The New York Times did not ask were: how much debate has their been on al-Jazeera about the right of the al Thani clan to rule? Has al-Jazeera given extensive coverage to one of the al Thani prince's criminal behaviour and his subsequent outrageous release? What debate has there been of Qatar's role in sheltering Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? What debate has there been of the issues of class and race, covered in this article about Dubai?

Update 1: They sell Carlsberg in Qatar, by the way.

Andrew Apostolou (yes, we have no pyjamas).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 10:58 PM | Comments (39)

Hitch on Walt and Mearsheimer

Christopher Hitchens offers his two cents on "The Lobby."

Rather than focus on Saudi Arabia, as Lee Smith has done, he instead chooses Pakistan and Turkey:
For purposes of contrast, let us look at two other regional allies of the United States. Both Turkey and Pakistan have been joined to the Pentagon hip since approximately the time of the emergence of the state of Israel, which coincided with the Truman Doctrine. Pakistan was, like Israel, cleaved from a former British territory. Since that time, both states have carried out appalling internal repression and even more appalling external aggression. Pakistan attempted a genocide in Bangladesh, with the support of Nixon and Kissinger, in 1971. It imposed the Taliban as its client in a quasi-occupation of Afghanistan. It continues to arm and train Bin Ladenists to infiltrate Indian-held Kashmir, and its promiscuity with nuclear materials exceeds anything Israel has tried with its stockpile at Dimona. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and continues in illegal occupation of the northern third of the island, which has been forcibly cleansed of its Greek inhabitants. It continues to lie about its massacre of the Armenians. U.N. resolutions have had no impact on these instances of state terror and illegality in which the United States is also partially implicated.

But here's the thing: There is no Turkish or Pakistani ethnic "lobby" in America. And here's the other thing: There is no call for "disinvestment" in Turkey or Pakistan. We are not incessantly told that with these two friends we are partners in crime. Perhaps the Greek Cypriots and Indians are in error in refusing to fly civilian aircraft into skyscrapers. That might get the attention of the "realists." Or perhaps the affairs of two states, one secular Muslim and one created specifically in the name of Islam, do not possess the eternal fascination that attaches to the Jewish question.
Then there's this:
There has been some disquiet expressed about Mearsheimer and Walt's over-fondness for Jewish name-dropping: their reiteration of the names Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, etc., as the neocon inner circle. Well, it would be stupid not to notice that a group of high-energy Jews has been playing a role in our foreign-policy debate for some time. The first occasion on which it had any significant influence (because, despite its tentacular influence, it lost the argument over removing Saddam Hussein in 1991) was in pressing the Clinton administration to intervene in Bosnia and Kosovo. These are the territories of Europe's oldest and largest Muslim minorities; they are oil-free and they do not in the least involve the state interest of Israel. Indeed, Sharon publicly opposed the intervention. One could not explain any of this from Mearsheimer and Walt's rhetoric about "the lobby."
But it's the concluding paragraph that's classic Hitch:
Mearsheimer and Walt belong to that vapid school that essentially wishes that the war with jihadism had never started. Their wish is father to the thought that there must be some way, short of a fight, to get around this confrontation. Wishfulness has led them to seriously mischaracterize the origins of the problem and to produce an article that is redeemed from complete dullness and mediocrity only by being slightly but unmistakably smelly.
Unmistakably smelly?! Top that, Lee!

Tony Badran

Posted by Tony Badran at 10:05 PM | Comments (20)

Bawer bites back

Bruce Bawer has a great, amusing response to a very silly review of his book in The Washington Post. Norwegians may find his comments about their country lacking sophistication "offensive."

Andrew Apostolou (yes, we have no pyjamas).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 10:03 PM | Comments (8)

More Hollywood silliness

The popinjays, your after hours resource, have a prime example of Hollywood moonbattery. This goes beyond the combined silliness of Sean Penn, George Clooney et al.

Andrew Apostolou (pyjamas in the drier).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 10:00 PM | Comments (6)

Three Reviews of Fukuyama

Here are three very interesting reviews of Francis Fukuyama's latest book that are worth a click. Unfortunately, I don't have the time now to comment on them at more length, but would be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

First, Paul Berman's in the NYT. A few quotes:
Now, I notice that in stressing this strategic argument, together with the humanitarian and human rights issue, and in pointing out lessons from the Balkans, Fukuyama has willy-nilly outlined some main elements of the liberal interventionist position of three years ago, at least in one of its versions. In the Iraq war, liberal interventionism was the road not taken, to be sure. Nor was liberal interventionism his own position. However, I have to say that, having read his book, I'm not entirely sure what position he did adopt, apart from wisely admonishing everyone to tread carefully. He does make plain that, having launched wars hither and yon, the United States had better ensure that, in Afghanistan and Iraq alike, stable antiterrorist governments finally emerge.

He proposes a post-Bush foreign policy, which he styles "realistic Wilsonianism" — his new motto in place of neoconservatism. He worries that because of Bush's blunders, Americans on the right and the left are going to retreat into a Kissinger-style reluctance to promote democratic values in other parts of the world. Fukuyama does want to promote democratic values — "what is in the end a revolutionary American foreign policy agenda" — though he would like to be cautious about it, and even multilateral about it. The United Nations seems to him largely unsalvageable, given the role of nondemocratic countries there. But he thinks that a variety of other institutions, consisting strictly of democracies, might be able to establish and sometimes even enforce a new and superior version of international legitimacy. He wants to encourage economic development in poor countries, too — if only a method can be found that avoids the dreadful phrase "social engineering."
The bit about strictly democratic multilateral institutions (outside the UN) is intriguing. I'll have to read what he has to say about it in depth (I have yet to read Fukuyama's book which is another reason why I'm reserving comment for now). We've seen the potential benefits with the American-French-British cooperation over Lebanon (while Russia continues to hint at a spoiler role). But then again, it's not without problems. It would be interesting to see what Fukuyama has in mind.

As anyone who has read Terror and Liberalism knows, Berman is interested in the ideological component of the war on radical Islamism, and finds that lacking in Fukuyama's book:
In "America at the Crossroads," Fukuyama describes the Hegelianism of "The End of History" as a version of "modernization" theory, bringing his optimistic vision of progress into the world of modern social science. But the problem with modernization theory was always a tendency to concentrate most of its attention on the steadily progressing phases of history, as determined by the predictable workings of sociology or economics or psychology — and to relegate the free play of unpredictable ideas and ideologies to the margins of world events.

And yet, what dominated the 20th century, what drowned the century in oceans of blood, was precisely the free play of ideas and ideologies, which could never be relegated entirely to the workings of sociology, economics, psychology or any of the other categories of social science. In my view, we are seeing the continuing strength of 20th-century-style ideologies right now — the ideologies that have motivated Baathists and the more radical Islamists to slaughter millions of their fellow Muslims in the last 25 years, together with a few thousand people who were not Muslims. Fukuyama is always worth reading, and his new book contains ideas that I hope the non-neoconservatives of America will adopt. But neither his old arguments nor his new ones offer much insight into this, the most important problem of all — the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them.
The second review is by Niall Ferguson in the Telegraph. Ferguson comments on Fukuyama's U-turn and its possible significance:
It coincides with a sea-change in the public mood. Disillusionment with Iraq has even begun to penetrate Bush's once-loyal base in the American heartland.

The worst of all this is that all those who from the outset opposed the war in Iraq now appear vindicated, no matter how dubious their arguments. We are rapidly reverting to the default setting of the Democratic Left, that it is preferable to leave tyrants in power than to sully the republic with the taint of imperialism. Better a multitude of Attilas abroad than Rome at home.

I agree that the neocons got it wrong, but my reasons are different from Fukuyama's, and they do not lead me to conclude that the Left was correct all along.
Ferguson goes on to outline his reasons, and ends up reaffirming his own thesis (from his book, Colossus):
And yet the logical conclusion from all this is not that the United States should pack up and march off home. For what precisely is the alternative to American hegemony, benign or blundering? Fukuyama pins his hopes on a new multilateralism, trying to breathe life into the corpse of the United Nations and other kindred institutions. The French fantasise that the European Union should somehow act as a counterweight to American power.

Yet when people in other countries are asked: "Would the world be safer if another country were as powerful as the United States?", they generally say "No". We and the Turks are evenly split, but a majority of Russians, Germans and even Jordanians, Moroccans and Pakistanis think the world would be less safe with a second superpower.

What all this tells us is not that American hegemony is finished and should be wound up. It tells us that there is no better alternative available. Pace Fukuyama, the United States does not need to say "sorry" for getting rid of Saddam. What it needs to do is to be more realistic, better informed historically and less fiscally profligate; and to get more boots on the ground.

I'm all for admitting to error. But let's get it right about what has gone wrong.
As I mentioned above, I'll need to read exactly what Fukuyama wrote, but one gets conflicting remarks from Berman and Ferguson about his attitude towards the UN. It seems that Fukuyama is trying to find a way to have both legitimacy and efficiency (esp. when, as Berman points out, UN action is often crippled by authoritarian states). These issues are touched on in the third review by Gary Rosen in the WaPo:
His [Fukuyama] own tool of choice is what foreign policy types call "soft power" -- the less coercive means at America's disposal, from foreign aid and election monitoring to the sort of civil affairs know-how that was so conspicuously lacking when U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad. Indeed, so important is this aspect of Fukuyama's newfound "realistic Wilsonianism" that he devotes a third of his slender book to it. We learn about the "huge" body of technical literature on democratic transitions, state-building and economic development. And we receive a long tutorial on how the United States might better use "overlapping and sometimes competitive international institutions," practicing what Fukuyama calls "multi-multilateralism." It's all very instructive in its scholarly, wonkish way -- a kind of primer for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
This summary, if accurate, begs a series of question which Rosen goes on to ask:
But can such "soft power" succeed without sterner stuff behind it? Is it an answer to the multiple pathologies of the modern Middle East? Short of military intervention, it is difficult to see how any sort of democratic spark could have penetrated Iraq's police state. For that matter, in a region flush with petrodollars, dominated by strongmen and sheikhs, and threatened by Islamist insurgency, reform-minded leaders are unlikely to emerge anywhere without considerable pressure from the outside -- at the very least, of the economic and diplomatic variety. Fukuyama prefers carrots -- "our ability to set an example, to train and educate, to support with advice and often money" -- but the job plainly demands sticks as well if we hope to see results in our own lifetime.
Of course, anyone familiar with the track record of such an approach in the ME may snicker bitterly upon reading that last quote from Fukuyama. A cynic might add a clause in there: "we train and educate, they jail and crack down!"

Again, I don't have time right now to go into this, and furthermore, I'll hold back till I've read the book.

But Rosen explains further:
And that may be the point. Fukuyama is in no hurry to confront the chronic problems of the Middle East. It isn't just that he doubts the feasibility of the neocons' nation-building schemes or their claims that democracy is the best antidote to Islamism. For Fukuyama, the challenge posed by Osama bin Laden's brand of radicalism is simply not that serious -- not, in his carefully chosen word, the sort of "existential" threat that should trouble our sleep. There's something to this view, of course, after more than four years of peace on the home front. But it depends too much on the good fortune we've enjoyed -- and underestimates an enemy whom we've underestimated before. A spectacular American encore by al-Qaeda would not literally destroy the country, but it could well cripple it for a time, with far-reaching effects on our way of life. Neocons have refused to discount such dire prospects.
According to Rosen, it seems that this position emanates to a certain degree from an assumption -- or a theory -- on Fukuyama's part about Islamism:
More surprising is Fukuyama's rejection of the very idea that liberalization in the Middle East would make us safer. His point is not merely the obvious one that the short-term beneficiaries of any political opening are likely to be extremists like Hamas. Rather, as he sees it, jihadism itself is "a by-product of modernization and globalization," not a return to tradition but a thoroughly 21st-century balm for alienated young people whose communal identities have been shattered by the West's aggressive, often vulgar materialism. The Islamist wave is emphatically not, in his view, the result of any lack of freedom or democracy in the countries across which it has swept in recent decades.

Here Fukuyama commits apostasy of a different kind: against the thesis that made him famous. His new rendering of "the end of history" -- of liberal democracy as the culmination of humankind's ideological development -- verges on economic determinism; it is, as he recently put it, "a kind of Marxist argument." Just as he finds the roots of jihadism in the confounding material bounty of the West, so too does he define modernization itself as little more than the longing for "technology, high standards of living, health standards, and access to the wider world." Politics is an afterthought, the icing on the economic cake.
Again, I'll have to read Fukuyama first, but prima facie, this strikes me as quite the problematic assumption.

Fukuyama elaborated a bit on this theory in an essay co-written with Adam Garfinkkle and featured in the Opinion Journal.

There are so many problematic statements and assumptions in this piece, it would take me a while to give them their due (and this is not to say that the authors don't make good points). But a lot of the statements are perplexing to me, and seem to give legitimacy to certain cretinous theses about the ruling regimes in the region (e.g., that they are "secular Arab nationalists"). For instance, the notion that free elections would bring "the mosque into the public square" simply does not take into account that in Egypt, e.g., the regime has long ceded the public sphere to the clerical institution.

In other words, what some of us have been saying for a while is that the regimes and the Islamists are in many ways two sides of the same coin. That includes violence, illiberalism, the strangling of free and liberal voices, etc., resulting in a battered socio-political culture. It's a game that the regimes have perfected. So, for example, while the only serious challenger to Mubarak's regime is the Muslim Brotherhood, his crackdowns are against liberals!

I will stop here, but when you keep such matters in mind, parts of the essay will simply make your jaw drop. The implications they might have on policy, of course, are deeply worrying (esp. when we keep in mind the remark by Ferguson about "the default setting of the Democratic Left" or Berman's "Kissinger-style reluctance to promote democratic values"). Other parts are simply wrong. It wasn't "extremist Islamists" who rioted against the Danish cartoons. It was very much "traditional pious Muslims." And by the way, these "secular" regimes were deeply implicated in fanning the flames, as happened in "secular" Baathist Syria for instance.

In the end, I find Fukuyama's assumptions on Islamism (and "traditional Islam" -- ed.'s note: the dominance of traditional Islam is already asserted in the region!), modernization, the ME and its discourses and socio-political culture, and the role of liberalism, to be highly problematic (and that might explain Berman's dissatisfaction with the lack of a proper discussion of ideology). We can't make this only about "us" (e.g., "Islamism is a by-product of modernization" and that somehow it should be seen as separate from the socio-political culture of the ME).

There are lots of questions that need to be asked, and critical points to be made, but again, I'll reserve further comment till I've read the book.

Tony Badran

Posted by Tony Badran at 06:39 PM | Comments (7)

March 26, 2006

London policing

One of the ways in which the police in repressive societies intimidate people is by turning up at protest meetings and taking pictures of them. What, then, are we supposed to make of this behaviour in London yesterday? Note that this is the same Metropolitan Police that did nothing about demonstrators who incited to violence in May 2005 and then only responded in February 2006 after a public outcry. Many thanks to Nordishblog.

As Tatchell speaks, note the policeman with the peaked hat tell the policeman with the baseball hat which citizen to photograph. Is this how we do policing in Britain?

Update 1: click on this link to see the pic, it is the 53rd picture down.

Update 2: A correspondent who must remain anonymous writes that "I also include photos of the cops who maintained a very intimidating presence, photographing everyone, including tourists and little old ladies. They were far more aggressive than at Islamist demos apparently."

The caption with this pic is "snapping a curious canadian tourist, female, around 70."

Here are the boys in blue again.

The correspondent writes: "an Iraqi named Ali who made a powerful brief speech in which he referred to the severe restrictions on freedom of speech under Saddam and the Taliban"

Our correspondent writes that: "The people wearing danish flags were doing so because they were forbidden to wave them. I persuaded one of them... to wave it despite the ban -- the police moved in behind us so we eventually stopped."

The police intervened at one point. More details on my site and here, note the gentleman that they spoke to was Iranian.

Andrew Apostolou (pyjamas in the wash, finally).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 05:55 AM | Comments (28)

March 25, 2006

What free expression?

London’s “March For Free Expression” encountered the absurdity of British law today:
The stewards were advised that a bylaw prohibits the display in Trafalgar Square of any foreign flags, so they had to cooperate with the wardens and the police in asking people to lower Danish and American flags. That's a shame, but thank you to the people concerned for complying with good grace (and sometimes managing to "wear" the flags in a way that was allowed to pass).
No foreign flags? Odd how the Metropolitan Police and wardens were so good at enforcing the law today. Here are pictures of Trafalgar Square demonstrations involving foreign flags (bonus, Gorgeous one in the foreground), and here, here, here, here and here (amazing!).

If you live in the UK, you'd do better to put this in your lapel than waste your time with these so-called pro-free expression demos.


Andrew Apostolou (dress down saturday blogger).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 10:49 PM | Comments (19)

Phony pacifists

Eric at the Popinjays, your one-stop shop for booze marinated, pro-war extreme leftism, reports that the Iraqi embassy in Canada has hit back at the phony pacifists of the Christian Peacemaker Teams.

There are also good editorials in Canada's National Post, opinion pieces in the Ottawa Citizen, by Margaret Wente and Rex Murphy in the Globe and Mail as well as letters (here and here).

Hardly backwards in coming forwards, the Iraqi embassy in Canada, said:
Politically, they are on the other side of this war. Christian Peacemaker Teams are objectively on the side of the fascists, Saddam Hussein's loyalists and al-Qaida in Iraq.
As the great popinjay himself wrote recently:
I shall go on keeping score about this until the last phony pacifist has been strangled with the entrails of the last suicide-murderer.
Feeding them to the lions would be too mild.

Andrew Apostolou (dress down saturday blogger).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 08:57 PM | Comments (10)

March 24, 2006

Rally for Denmark!

The attempt in Britain to hold a "March for Freedom of Expression" is having a spot of bother. Problem is, first of all, they had to meet with the Police to let PC Plod know "what banners and signs might say or show."

Is this the same Police force that did nothing about murderous placards at demonstrations by Islamist extremists in London in May 2005 and in February 2006, only responding in the latter case after the event when there was a public and press outcry? Here is what happened in May 2005 according to CNN:
A British policeman said the language was offensive and unpleasant in the extreme. But police overlooked that and the fact that more than a few of the young men in the crowd covered their faces, technically a violation of British law, according to the police.
Shouting, "Down, down USA; down, down USA," the protesters called for the killing of Americans, the death of the U.S. president, the death of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the bombing of Britain, and the annihilation of the U.S. capital: "Nuke, nuke Washington; Nuke, nuke Washington! Bomb, bomb the Pentagon."
My letter to my MP on this matter elicited a reply from Hazel Blears at the Home Office that read as if it has been copied off a press release website. These reported comments from the boys in blue to the "March for Free Expression" organizers were interesting:
they [the Police] asked us to consider the cost to the taxpayer of policing a march and the inconvenience it would cause Londoners.
The "inconvenience" of a "March for Free Expression"--wouldn't want that in a free society would we?

Now the "March for Free Expression" has appealed for attendees not to bring copies of the Danish cartoons, leading people to ask if the event is really about freedom of expression. Talk about tying yourself in knots. You'll find a discussions of this led by the indefatigable David T over at Harry's Place

A simple Danish solidarity event, venue easy to find (the Danish embassy), would have sufficed, like this one.

Andrew Apostolou (lego my jim jams).

Pic from the DC rally, courtesy of Corsair the Rational Pirate:


Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 05:55 AM | Comments (12)

March 23, 2006

Foreman of Arabia

Jonathan Foreman (aka Foreman of Arabia) has a long post on National Review Online on Iraq three years after the liberation war began, which starts with the following excellent point:
Confounding the expectations of cynics and terrorists, the majority Shia community has, at least until the Samarra mosque desecration, shown astonishing restraint and faith in a democratic future, despite months of murderous attacks by Sunni klansmen, Baathist diehards, and their al Qaeda Sunni allies. Likewise, Iraq's Kurdish leaders have put the future of a free Iraq before their own sectional interests.
Foreman has recently published The Pocket Book of Patriotism.

Andrew Apostolou (pjs blogger).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 09:17 PM | Comments (65)

Masochism (and not of the interesting variety)

Brave members of the Multinational forces in Iraq rescued the three "peace" activists. Here is how they responded (extract from the "Statement By Loney Family" and the identical Christian Peacemaker Teams statement:
We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.
Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families.
The Multi-National Force-Iraq has United Nations backing in the form of UNSCRs 1511 (2003), 1546 (2004) and 1637 (2005).

The fascists murdered their friend, then they condemn their rescuers. Now where does it say: "love your murderers, denounce your friends"?

The kindest way in which one can characterize these people's attitude is: "What have the Romans ever done for us?"

Andrew Apostolou (seeking salvation in jim jams).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 09:11 PM | Comments (6)

Nice try

In the discussion of the jilbab case, which has been manipulated by Islamist groups in the UK, the following comments on the BBC website were classics:
Added: Wednesday, 22 March, 2006, 22:31 GMT 22:31 UK

I feel the judgment was right. School uniforms exist for a reason, to eliminate any prejudice that might cause bullying due to what people ware.

Religious clothes should not be treated any different. its like saying i want to ware my Arsenal cap cos i believe in them.


Added: Wednesday, 22 March, 2006, 22:19 GMT 22:19 UK

My religion (Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, yes, its real look it up) requires me to wear full pirate uniform at all times, my school uniform obviously won't allow this a breach of my human rights? Should I be in the courts?

David H, Newbury
Who has not attempted such a gambit at school to get out of some pointless chore or brutal sport?

Andrew Apostolou (jim jams prevent me from participating in inter-house rugby, sir).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 08:54 PM | Comments (5)

Iran policy

An American lady in Iran has some novel suggestions "targeted at the ruling classes":
1. Force the Iranian team to negotiate with itself. (Oops! They already are!)
2. Make them source all materials and services within Iran. (That’ll teach them.)
3. Have the regime try to get money from itself without bribing anyone.
4. Force them to meet deadlines.
5. Don’t serve tea to any Iranian officials.
6. Make them use the Iranian medical system themselves (no intermediaries allowed! Let them see what it’s like to find out the drug they need is only available on the black market.)
7. Don’t let them watch football until they meet the EU’s demands.
8. Force them to drink only homemade Iranian vodka.
Number 8 may be going too far.

Andrew Apostolou (persian pyjamas).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 08:50 PM | Comments (3)

Evading genocide with quotation marks

President George W. Bush's second-term National Security Strategy states:
4. Genocide
Patient efforts to end conflicts should not be mistaken for tolerance of the intolerable. Genocide is the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. The world needs to start honoring a principle that many believe has lost its force in parts of the international community in recent years: genocide must not be tolerated.
It is a moral imperative that states take action to prevent and punish genocide. History teaches that sometimes other states will not act unless America does its part. We must refine United States Government efforts – economic, diplomatic, and law-enforcement – so that they target those individuals responsible for genocide and not the innocent citizens they rule. Where perpetrators of mass killing defy all attempts at peaceful intervention, armed intervention may be required, preferably by the forces of several nations working together under appropriate regional or international auspices.
We must not allow the legal debate over the technical definition of “genocide” to excuse inaction. The world must act in cases of mass atrocities and mass killing that will eventually lead to genocide even if the local parties are not prepared for peace.
Fine words. However, when the U.S. ambassador to Armenia called the genocide of the Armenians a, well, genocide, the courageous souls of Foggy Bottom sallied forth to oblige the ambo to state that:
Although I told my audiences that the United States policy on the Armenian tragedy has not changed, I used the term “genocide” speaking in what I characterized as my personal capacity. This was inappropriate.
The ambo alluded to the president's annual statement on the genocide, a statement which does not mention it as a genocide:
This terrible event is what many Armenian people have come to call the "Great Calamity."
A year later a rumpus has been started about the ambo's status, eliciting this bit of editing by the State Department:
Armenia: Status of US Ambassador to Armenia Evans
Question: What is the status of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Evans? Was he recalled for statements acknowledging the Armenian "genocide"?
Answer: U.S. Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President. Ambassador Evans and his capable team have the full confidence of the Administration.
Smart! So to show that somebody else said genocide, and that the State Department didn't, the used quotation marks, which means that the genocide was a "genocide", not a genocide. It's different, you see? The L.A. Times has it right:
It is time to stop tiptoeing around this issue and to accept settled history. Genocide, according to accepted U.N. definition, means "the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." Armenia is not even a borderline case. Punishing an ambassador for speaking honestly about a 90-year-old crime befits a cynical, double-dealing monarchy, not the leader of the free world.
If Bush can stand up to Saddam, he can handle a democratic government in Turkey. What is more, given the choice, one day, between EU membership and acknowledging a nearly century old crime that nobody seriously denies, what will Turkey do? When that happens, maybe the State Department will get rid of those quotation marks.

Andrew Apostolou (historian in jim jams).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 08:40 PM | Comments (12)

March 22, 2006

Guilty as charged

United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), passed under chapter seven of the charter and linked to the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire, operational paragraph 32:
Requires Iraq to inform the Security Council that it will not commit or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organization directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory and to condemn unequivocally and renounce all acts, methods and practices of terrorism;
According to Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard:
SADDAM HUSSEIN'S REGIME PROVIDED FINANCIAL support to Abu Sayyaf, the al Qaeda-linked jihadist group founded by Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law in the Philippines in the late 1990s, according to documents captured in postwar Iraq. An eight-page fax dated June 6, 2001, and sent from the Iraqi ambassador in Manila to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad, provides an update on Abu Sayyaf kidnappings and indicates that the Iraqi regime was providing the group with money to purchase weapons. The Iraqi regime suspended its support--temporarily, it seems--after high-profile kidnappings, including of Americans, focused international attention on the terrorist group.
According to the Center for Defense Information:
Abu Sayyaf-al Qaeda links are strong.
Some people will have to start laughing on the other sides of their faces.

Andrew Apostolou (pyjamas pongo).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 10:43 PM | Comments (39)

More Rebuttals of "The Lobby"

Norm Geras posts a letter by Profs. Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits rebutting the Walt/Mearsheimer paper. Their first point echoes Lee Smith's argument. Their third point is equally important:
Mearsheimer and Walt stand in a long tradition of "realist" political scientists known for naivete regarding the power and import of ideological fanaticism in international affairs. This naivete is the reason that radical Islam and the enduring crises of modernization in the region that produced it receive hardly a word in their long attack.
This actually brought to mind an important point Shalom Lappin made in response to Walt and Mearsheimer (emphases mine):
I also found the article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in the LRB to be a nuanced version of Pat Buchanan's right wing, isolationist-inspired anti-Israel polemic. Mearsheimer and Walt are apparently members of a nascent "realist" coalition of traditional conservative political thinkers coming from the general direction of the Nixon right. I found the article striking on three counts. First, it contains no new facts or innnovative analysis. It simply appropriates the venerable slogans, half truths, and misrepresentations of the anti-Zionist left, but it tones them down and presses them into service for a realist agenda. The seamlessness and ease with which this line can cross the political spectrum is a remarkable comment on who is pushing it and why.
The convergence of these two currents in the US (under the guise of "realism") is disturbing. Christopher Hitchens has been talking about this rather bizarre, sleazy, and incredibly hypocritical alliance between the Left and the Scowcroft Right on Iraq and US foreign policy in the ME in particular (this is really material for another post altogether).

Also, check out Frank Fukuyama's recent piece in The Guardian, which indirectly touches on the same point.

Back to Walt and Mearsheimer. Check out this detailed dissection by Robert Fine.

Update: Harvard has removed its logo from the Walt and Mearsheimer paper.

Update 2: What about W&M's footnotes?

Tony Badran.

Posted by Tony Badran at 09:53 AM | Comments (11)

Invite Fathi

Why does Columbia not put Fathi Eljahmi, a Libyan dissident, on its teleconference today?

Andrew Apostolou (still in pyjamas, but not in the media).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 06:01 AM | Comments (4)

Practical blasphemy

In the toss up between cartoons and killing people, one might conclude that ending the lives of the children of God might rank as a greater offence than mocking either God or God's prophets. So, one might expect that a few Sudanese embassies have been put to the torch by crowds angry at genocide in Darfur, but apparently not.

The protests against mass murder in Darfur have been impressively peaceful. A number of religious institutions have started displaying banners calling for the Darfuris to be saved. A list is here. Oddly, one kind of religious institution appears to be missing. Interestingly, many institutions that will soon commemorate pharaonically induced mass pedestrianism are well represented. How will Harvard explain that?

Andrew Apostolou (in pyjamas but not in the media).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 05:27 AM | Comments (13)

Harvard hatred

Endorsed by David Duke.

Andrew Apostolou (in as yet unsoiled jim jams).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 05:27 AM | Comments (11)

Great American export

One of the best British blogs is The Daily Ablution, written by ex-pat Yank Scott Burgess. In his daily evisceration of The Guardian, Burgess alights upon absurd details missed by that newspaper and those other sections of the British media that have become apologists for the Islamo-fascists. For example, commenting on the treatment of British traitor Feroz Abbasi in Guantanamo Bay:
While all of these acts are undeniably horrifying, being on a par with the worst excesses of Torquemada, even their totality pales in comparison with the most extreme of the tortures to which Mr. Abbasi was subjected. Of course, countless abuses have been committed against war prisoners throughout the ages - no one denies that. But, while not downplaying their suffering, it must be admitted that even the most unfortunate of these victims can only breathe a sigh of relief that he was not subject to what Mr. Abbasi was forced to endure when he:
had his peanut butter eaten by a guard "right in front of him".
One needn't be a bleeding heart to shudder at the inhumanity thus displayed.
But Scott, was it crunchy or smooth?

Andrew Apostolou (no need to clean them yet).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 04:40 AM | Comments (4)

March 21, 2006

Columbia for sale

Further to Lee Smith's guest post, here's an article by Mohamed Eljahmi, a Libyan-American whose brother Fathi is under lock and key in Libya. Eljahmi points out that Columbia University is taking Libyan money for a conference which will involve Col. Qadhafi participating by teleconference. Among the great seats of learning with which Columbia has decided to associate itself are "Tripolis (sic) Green Book Center" (NYT article on this outfit here). Perhaps the Colonel will enlighten Columbia on his theory that the CIA created and spread AIDS.

Note that Columbia gingerly refers to Qadhafi as the "Libyan leader." He's paying so they can't call him a dictator. Still on his own wesbite, Qadhafi does use his military title.

The head of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia hosting this shindig is Lisa Anderson, who gave this laughable speech at the Middle East Studies Association in 2003, who took a partly Saudi paid junket in 2004 and who is not to be confused with this Lisa Anderson (internet searches can yield odd results).

Andrew Apostolou (in clean jim jams).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 04:21 AM | Comments (8)

March 20, 2006

A Place Called Saudi Arabia

(Double) Guest Entry by Lee Smith

I find it a little hard to believe Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's "The Israel Lobby" was written while sober. In their first sentence, the authors assert that, "For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel."

Pretty much any American who has ever been in a motorized vehicle knows that the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy is Washington's relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and has been so since the mid-30s. It is a vital national interest – not just because cheap fuel permits Americans to drive SUVs, but because protecting the largest known oil-reserves in the world ensures a stable world economy. Moreover, the US military counts on access to that oil in the event it has to wage war – an activity that demands a lot of oil.

Walt and Mearsheimer's article explains how "the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics," which I agree with, because like many Americans I've ridden in a car before and I believe that the ability to get people and things from one place to another is a big part of successful domestic politics. It's not entirely clear that the authors of this really long article have ever been in a car before, because when they're talking about domestic politics, they're not talking about cars, or the economy or even our military, but "the activities of the 'Israel Lobby.'"

So, how much credit should these guys get for staking out a "realist" position on US Middle Eastern policy that does not account for the existence of cars, or something even bigger than a Hummer – the Arabian Peninsula? Unless they were drunk, they shouldn't get any at all. If they were drunk, kudos to them for no spelling mistakes! – none that I could find anyway. Maybe they were smoking some ace reef because Walt and Mearsheimer see spectacular forces at work everywhere in US regional policy – and a hangover would surely explain why they totally forgot about Saudi Arabia. Ouch! But that still doesn't make them realists, just big partiers who can type well when they're bombed.

If you're one of Walt or Mearsheimer's drinking buddies, or a bartender serving them, here's a quick quiz, with questions drawn from their article, so you know when to cut them off and send them home – but definitely not to write another article about Middle East affairs.

Discuss: "The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden."

The first Gulf War, wherein roughly 500,000 US troops were committed to the Gulf to protect our friends in Kuwait and a country called Saudi Arabia, revealed that no matter how many arms we sold to our Gulf allies finally only real live US soldiers could protect them from predators. And yet in due course we also learned that while the Saudis could not protect their own oil, our protecting that oil further weakened the royal family and compromised their legitimacy, making them vulnerable to dangerous domestic forces – like Osama Bin Laden, for instance. Ruling over a country that cannot protect itself, or safely be protected, from foreign threats or its own citizens, a country whose wellbeing is a vital national interest makes the Saudi royal family the Liza Minnelli of "strategic burdens."

True or False. "As for so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital US interests, except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel."

False. Israel has a strong military and a nuclear arsenal. Remember guys, the rationale of Zionism is not to control the media and send Christian boys to die in Jewish wars, but that the Jews would not ever again have to depend on the kindness of strangers to defend them, since they did not do so very adequately in the past – hence a powerful Jewish army is trained and equipped to defend Jews. Of course Israel is concerned about the prospects of an Iranian nuclear program, but not as much as our allies in the Gulf, who have neither strong militaries nor nuclear arsenals. A nuclear Iran is a threat to that big country in the desert named Saudi Arabia and other tiny sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf, and getting Gulf oil to market is a vital US interest.

Gut-check follow-up: Discuss: "Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons – which is obviously undesirable – neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without suffering overwhelming retaliation."

Well, but what if an Iranian nuclear weapon emboldened the IRI to close the Straits of Hormuz? (That's a narrow body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located.) Could the US and its Gulf allies be blackmailed? Or do realists like you two believe that there is political will in Washington and other Western capitals to "retaliate overwhelmingly" against Tehran for closing shipping lanes?

True or False. "…Unwavering support for Israel … has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world."

True. Nice work, boys – this Goldschlager's on me. But just remember, guys, that those flames of anti-Americanism do not always issue from organic sources; often indeed they are fed by Arab regimes, including many of our allies in a place called Saudi Arabia. (What? Yes, Saudi Arabia is a dry country.) US taxpayers have spent a lot of money to protect the flow of oil over the last seven decades and ensure that the Saudi ruling family keeps collecting receipts. (Yes, just one family, Al Saud, with about 5000 princes on the pad. Yes, some of them drink when they're not in Saudi Arabia.) Sometimes that money is used to incite anti-American sentiment and fund terror operations against Americans and US interests abroad. Think this one over in the morning: Should we stop supporting Israel because that makes us hated by Arabs, or should we put more pressure on Arab allies like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who have institutionalized anti-US incitement at home in their press, schools and mosques, while also funding it lavishly abroad? OK, OK, think about it like this: Would you bag friend A if friend B was paying everyone he knew to spit in your face and kick your ass just because you were friends with friend A? Wrong answer and you can take my number out of your Palm Pilot.

True or False: "By contrast, pro-Arab interest groups, in so far as they exist at all, are weak, which makes the Israel Lobby's task even easier."

True – not. Psyche. Yeah, true if you exclude the obviously limited influence that oil companies have exercised in US policymaking over the last seventy years. And it's not just the oil companies doing Gulf bidding; virtually every American ambassador who's served in Riyadh winds up with a nice package to keep selling the Saudi line back in Washington. Yes, you're right, AIPAC's annual budget is a whopping $40 million dollars – or precisely equivalent to the private donation Saudi prince Walid Bin Talal recently gave to two US universities to start up Islamic centers. What? Come on Steve, he gave half of it to Harvard! OK, give me the car keys. The keys to the car, it's how you got here. In a car. It has four wheels and a motor. It runs on gas. Gas comes from a place called Saudi Arabia….

Posted by Tony Badran at 08:11 AM | Comments (58)

March 18, 2006


Following up once more on Andrew's latest post, here are a few links to posts responding with "reason, ridicule, argument and analysis" to the Walt and Mearsheimer "study."

Here are David Bernstein (Volokh Conspiracy), Dan Drezner, Haaretz's Shmuel Rosner, and, perhaps most effectively, Martin Kramer.

Needless to say, for every thinking person there's the inevitable ridiculous twit or two.

Tony Badran.

Posted by Tony Badran at 09:02 AM | Comments (42)

Responding to hatred

The London Review of Books has published an attack on Americans Jews under cover of a supposed critique of the "Israel Lobby." The London Review of Books has previously made available the repellent views of Anatol Lieven.

Interestingly, the London Review of Books receives public assistance thanks to the Arts Council. Why are British taxpayers and punters subsidizing prejudice?

The response to this chauvinism, as to the similar bigotry that others have been on the receiving end of, will be reason and ridicule, argument and analysis. No embassies will be burned down in responding to this hated filled evacuation.

Andrew Apostolou (birthday suit blogger).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 07:51 AM | Comments (29)

In effect

Thanks to Tony for drawing our attention to the Erlanger article on Hamas and the end of the peace process. One could argue that Arafat knocked the peace process on the head in 2000. One could also observe that what Erlanger meant to write was that "[T]he "peace process" is in effect dead", not that "[T]he "peace process" is effectively dead."

Andrew Apostolou (birthday suit copy editor).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 07:32 AM | Comments (7)

Gluteals and Galloway

Hitchens, in an article about Ian Fleming which has a rear view and is helpfully entitled "Bottoms Up", cannot resist the following observation:
"SPECTRE," I noticed recently, is an anagram of "Respect," the name of a small British party led by a power-drunk micro-megalomaniac called George Galloway, a man with a friendly connection to Saddam Hussein.
My own encounter with the gorgeous one is here.

Andrew Apostolou (birthday suit blogger).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 07:11 AM | Comments (9)

March 17, 2006

Parallel Unilateralisms

To follow up on the Hamas reference in Andrew's last post (gia sou re Andrea me tis pitzames sou!) -- even though I never comment on Israeli-Palestinian matters -- Steven Erlanger had an actually sober piece on Hamas and the repercussions of its electoral victory:
The "peace process" is effectively dead.

The diplomatic assumptions of recent years - a peace treaty after a negotiated territorial compromise between Israel and Palestine, or "land for peace" - are blown apart. Ariel Sharon tried to redefine the bargain as "a state for security" - in other words, an independent Palestinian state in return for dismantling all armed "terrorist" groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades. That was a commitment undertaken in the "road map" by Yasser Arafat and reconfirmed by Mahmoud Abbas.

But it seems unlikely Hamas will dismantle itself. Nor, its leaders say, will it abandon "the right of resistance to occupation." Its religious conviction is that all of Palestine, including the current state of Israel, is Islamic "waqf" land - land belonging to the world's Muslims that no Muslim can sell or cede.

Hamas talks of a long-term hudna, or armistice, with Israel - so long as Israel returns to its 1967 boundaries (the armistice lines of the unfinished 1948-49 war), unannexes East Jerusalem and lets all refugees and their descendants return to their pre-1948 homes. The state of Israel itself, Hamas insists, has no right to exist on Islamic waqf land.

So with Hamas, the argument has moved from nationalism and territorial compromise, which can be negotiated, to religious conviction and a temporary Israeli lease on its sovereignty.

A long, hostile quiet may be possible. Israelis and Palestinians may pursue parallel unilateralisms. But serious negotiations on a peace settlement? Very unlikely. Abbas calls for talks. But after Hamas, Israel now considers him unable to deliver the mail, let alone a realistic, permanent two-state solution.
The whole thing, I think, is pretty much on target, especially the parts about Hamas itself.

A friend of mine put it bluntly: "the US is out of the peace process." And if further musing were in order, one may speculate that the Russians seem to think they may be able to get back in through the Syrian track, and hit several birds with one stone. But that too, if it were indeed true, is quite the shaky proposal on all levels. So I guess Erlanger's declaration that the process is dead and that what we'll most likely be seeing are "parallel unilateralisms," is largely correct.

Having said that, I now return to my normal policy of not commenting on Israeli-Palestinian issues! Erin go bragh!

Tony Badran.

Posted by Tony Badran at 08:04 PM | Comments (5)

Open door for fascists

In the wake of the defeat of fascism in Europe, one of the bodies founded to prevent future wars and to promote democratic values was the Council of Europe. Sadly, the Council of Europe has developed a habit of betraying its core values. Despite the crimes of Russian forces in Chechnya, Russia was admitted to the Council of Europe. Despite its patent lack of democracy, Azerbaijan was also allowed to enter the body. By contrast, Greece under the colonels' junta was pressured into withdrawing from the Council of Europe in 1969.

Now the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has gone one better and has invited the elected fascists of Hamas to its April 10-13, 2006 session in Strasbourg. Hamas openly advocates terrorism, glorifies murder and advocates genocide (for example, one Hamas deputy is Mariam Farahat who told her son not to come back alive from a terrorist mission). None of that can be bleached out by Hamas' election victory, nor will embracing Hamas lead to the two-state settlement that is the best future for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Hamas shows no signs of strategic flexibility in its desire to wipe Israel off of the map.

To make matters even more grotesque, Israeli army officers and Israeli who have fought fascism and terrorism are increasingly finding it difficult to travel to EU countries because of the threat of frivolous law suits.

Let's see how many writs will be served on the Hamas fascists.

Andrew Apostolou (pyjama free).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 05:03 AM | Comments (7)

March 16, 2006

Not so soft bigotry

Anne Applebaum had a slightly sarcastic column in yesterday's Washington Post about the hysterical reaction to Dubai Ports World's attempt to invest, through acquiring a British firm, in U.S. ports. She observes that:
Britain, also like Dubai, has harbored terrorists: the London bombers, the shoe bomber, the IRA.
One could add the United States to such a list. As Britons and Irish know all too well, the United States for many years did remarkably little to prevent the financing and supply of Irish Republican terrorism, terrorism that cost many innocent British and Irish lives. Few question American investment in either Ireland or the United Kingdom, indeed in both countries the United States is one of the largest investors.

Applebaum's sarcasm is more than justified and the column was all the more effective because of her restraint and because of the credibility she has gained from her principled opposition to torture.

The ports controversy has involved a display of not terribly soft bigotry by supposedly moderate American politicians, the sort of posturing pols who often tell us that the Bush Administration has needlessly offended foreigners and burned bridges with the rest of the world. The United States, the world's largest recipient of foreign direct investment and the world's largest foreign direct investor, has a self-evident interest in not sending out the message that globalization is a one-way street--or at least self-evident if you are neither Lou Dobbs nor a cut-price demagogue.

Andrew Apostolou (yes, we have no pyjamas).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 04:05 AM | Comments (25)

March 15, 2006

The Brammertz Report

The new head of the UN probe into the assassination of former Lebanese PM Hariri, Serge Brammertz, has submitted his first report to the UN Security Council. The report itself can be read here (PDF).

Michael Young comments on the report in his latest op-ed in The Daily Star. Young finds the report to be quite ominous as far as the Syrians are concerned, and that it points to the fact that Brammertz won't be distracted by scapegoats who may be offered to protect the Syrian ruling elite:
The most significant passage summing up Brammertz's current thinking about Hariri's murder came in paragraph 36. The commission stated its belief "that there is a layer of perpetrators between those who initially commissioned the crime and the actual perpetrators on the day of the crime, namely those who enabled the crime to occur." This was an intriguing formulation, intimating at least three layers of involvement: those who carried out the crime itself, those who ordered it, and an intermediate layer of accomplices who oversaw implementation. This entailed far more than, let's say, an Islamist plot, where the assassins would not require that intermediate layer, which mainly offers deniability.

If one acts on the hypothesis that Syria was behind Hariri's elimination, then the passage does two things: it underlines that Brammertz will not be misled by efforts to find scapegoats in the intermediate layer of perpetrators (apparently the middle levels of the intelligence services), to better protect those above who may have masterminded the crime; and it means the Belgian prosecutor is wise as to what took place, and that his silence is considerably more ominous than Syria and its allies would care to admit.
Syrian officials are giddy that the latest report is more discrete, unlike the previous ones by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis. But Druze leader Walid Jumblatt seems to share (scroll down) Young's reading, and is quite pleased with the report, and finds that it constitutes a clear indictment of the Syrian regime:
Although Brammertz said Syria has been cooperating, Jumblatt said the fact that the report decided there is a link between all explosions that took place before and after the assassination of Hariri was an explicit indictment of the Syrian regime.

"This is very important, as it forms a clear political indictment of the Syrian regime that ruled Lebanon at the time of the assassination," Jumblatt said.

He also said that what the report mentioned about highly professional terrorist work in Hariri's murder was further tacit "condemnation for the Syrian regime".

"This is a work on the level of a state, and Syria had strong hegemony over Lebanon then," Jumblatt said.
"Brammertz is following the work of Mehlis, and if he keeps this pace up the truth will be revealed soon," Jumblatt said, describing the report as "very positive and promising."

Meanwhile, the French reaction was relayed by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei, who said: "We have received with interest the declaration by Damascus of its willingness to cooperate fully with the Commission, according to the conditions laid out by the Commission," adding, "this proves that the firm stand that the international community has adopted in this matter from the start of the investigation has yielded results." He continued, "We now expect Syria to translate this position to tangible steps by responding quickly to the commission's demands according to international resolutions."

Tony Badran.

Posted by Tony Badran at 04:58 PM | Comments (16)

Aaronovitch and Hitchens on the Balkans

Marcus at the essential Harry's Place links to this excellent piece by David Aaronovitch on the Balkans. To accompany this piece, one can savour Hitchens who kicked off his Slob departure article with:
During the siege of Sarajevo or the mass deportations from Kosovo, the news of a sudden stoppage of the heart of Slobodan Milosevic would have occasioned a joyous holiday in many other hearts.

Andrew Apostolou (does my bandwidth look big in these pyjamas?).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 04:35 AM | Comments (2)

March 14, 2006

Making blasphemy pay

David T over at Harry's Place has a great entry on Amr Khaled, an Egyptian preacher whose views are less than pleasant. Recently our embattled allies in Denmark engaged in some dialogue with Amr Khaled. According to The New York Times:
Mr. Khaled sought to emphasize that "we are here to build bridges for dialogue," and suggested that a continuing boycott of Danish goods in Arab countries could stop if Danes and their government reached out with initiatives like help for small businesses, or health care.
That does rather sound like, give us some cash and we will lay off. What of the alleged offence to Islam and 1.3 billion Muslims? Or is it just a tradeable? Is using an alleged act of blasphemy as a means of levering some cash out of the embattled Danes perhaps not entirely respectful to the allegedly offended religion?

By contrast, you know where you stand with the Multan District Bar Association in Pakistan (thanks to Marcus at Harry's Place who spotted this on Tim Blair).

Andrew Apostolou (about to slip into natty jim jams).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 10:28 PM | Comments (12)

As of now, I am in control here

The headline, for once, sums up the story:

Haig says U.S. repeating Vietnam mistake

Al "As of now, I am in control here, in the White House" Haig is right, but for the wrong reason. The key Vietnam era mistake not to make is to listen to Haig and the chap sitting to his right, politically and physically.


Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 10:24 PM | Comments (17)

Time for some more protests

The Saudi ambassador and his cohorts will be up in arms about this one. This is guaranteed to inflame and insult. There will be talk of insensitivity and discrimination.

Sharon Stone not only visited the place that dare not appear on Iranian maps lest it be wiped off, she said:

"I've always been attracted to Jews," she says. "I like dark men who are
drawn to study, to art."

There will now be an auto da fé of "Basic Instinct" in Damascus (with the famous scene spliced out and saved for research purposes).

On a positive note, there's hope for Tottenham fans yet.

Andrew Apostolou (gooner who needs to change his pyjamas).

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 04:45 AM | Comments (16)

Intercommunal warfare in Iraq

There has been a gruesome and grotesque rise in the level of intercommunal violence between Sunni and Shi'a Arabs in Iraq since the attack on the Shi'a shrine in Samarra (a true act of blasphemy, by any standard, as opposed to some Dane's scribblings).

Note, however, that contrary to what you may hear, intercommunal violence is not new in Iraq. In the past, a largely Sunni Arab led army committed genocide against Kurds and Marsh Arabs. The state was, under many regimes in Iraq, a vehicle for the ascendancy of one community (not the largest) over the others.

Nor can the “insurgency” be treated as a different phenomenon to intercommunal violence. Contrary to the myth that the “insurgents” are Iraqi patriots, the insurgency in western and northwestern Iraq is overwhelmingly composed of Sunni Arabs. Their victims have been Sunni Arabs who have decided to accommodate themselves to the new Iraq, Shi’a Arabs and Kurds. For the victims, particularly many Shi’a who are not being allowed to enjoy the fruits of voting, the “insurgency” feels like a form of sectarian, intercommunal violence.

All of which means that scuttling out of Iraq now and betraying the Iraqis again is not a viable option. Even the BBC seems to have worked that one out (the penny drops very slowly here).

Andrew Apostolou (in his pyjamas)

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 03:52 AM | Comments (5)

And these are our allies?

One of the most interesting, important, and under studied changes in recent years has been the decline in U.S.-Turkish relations. To an extent it's a shame, as Turkey needs U.S. support for its rightful quest to join the EU. The problem is that too many in the U.S., especially in that most supine department of government, the State Department, don't seem to understand that relations have changed, while some in Turkey think that they can get away with the unpleasant techniques of the past.

Which allusive introduction brings us conveniently to Henri Barkey's splendidly angry denounciation of the Turkish government in this weekend's Los Angeles Times. The Turkish government, Barkey points out, was happy to meet the leader of a fascist, terrorist movement, but did not want U.S. officials to officially receive a democratically elected mayor of one of Turkey's largest cities, a man who opposes terrorism.

Andrew Apostolou (in his pyjamas)

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 03:26 AM | Comments (14)

Filling in for Totten

Michael Totten, like Johnny Carson, can't be here tonight.

In the last few days, we have had some interesting departures. First, there was Milan Babic, the dentist who became an irredentist, the leader of the Croatian Serbs who topped himself. Then, there was the big Slob himself, the banker who became a butcher, who appears to have mixed his meds and departed as per his family tradition. Both were criminals. Both were apprehended and were mouldering in the Hague because one country, and one country alone, was willing to intervene to end Serb-led butchery in the Balkans. No clues as to which country this was. Ok, one clue, it wasn't Belgium.

Andrew Apostolou (in his pyjamas)

Posted by Andrew Apostolou at 03:08 AM | Comments (6)

On the Road Again

I am traveling again and have two guest bloggers lined up until the end of the month. My historıan friend Andrew Apostolou and Tony Badran from Across the Bay will be fillıng in for me. Enjoy their posts, and don't forget to be nice in the comments.

Cheers, all. And thanks Tony and Andrew.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 01:58 AM | Comments (2)

March 12, 2006

The Last Village in Iraq

TAWELA, IRAQ – The village of Biara sits right on top of the Iranian border. But you can keep going further up the road, still higher into the rugged Kurdistan mountains, to the village of Tawela where you can see the Iranian gate.

Road to Tawela.jpg

The Kurdish highlands feel so far away from the Mesopotamiam plains down below. Surely this is one of the reasons Iraqi Kurds and Arabs look at each across an enormous cultural divide. They share the same religion and they share the same passport. But they live in different worlds and they always have.

I didn’t go to Tawela for any particular reason. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. There was one more village to go on the road to Iran, so I went. Why did the man climb the mountain? Because it was there.

The 20 Peshmerga soldiers the PUK’s minister of the interior sent with me on my day trip to Biara in the footsteps of Zarqawi had no idea we would also visit Tawela. But we went there and we went there because I said I wanted to go there. It felt weird all but ordering around 20 of my own Peshmerga. But no one complained. We stopped our convoy at the side of the road looking down into Iran to take pictures. I took photographs of the mountains. My Peshmerga buddies took photographs of themselves in front of the mountains with the cameras built into their cell phones.

Peshmerga Near Tawela.jpg

Iranian Mountains Between Biara and Tawela.jpg

The villagers of Tawela are walnut farmers. You can buy giant bags bursting with wallnuts in the shops for almost no money. There aren’t a lot of trees, walnut of otherwise, left in the region. Environmentalism arrived rather belatedly in these parts, but cutting down trees is now considered heinous and vile.

The town isn’t particularly attractive or striking. It doesn’t stand out in any way except for its location right next to the border on the open road into Iran. It’s just an average Kurdistan village in Northern Iraq, conservative and male-dominated as almost all Muslim villages are everywhere in the world.


Villagers in Tawela.jpg

Rain started coming down in a torrent. Waves of lashing water swept across the streets. I ducked into a tea shop with my translator Alan, partly to get out of the rain and partly to squeeze in just a few more minutes of conversation with people before it was time to head back to the city.

I found a seat next to an old man and ordered a glass of (what else?) Iraqi style tea.

It’s hard to describe what happened next without sounding arrogant or full of myself. I don’t mean it that way. The same thing would likely have happened to you if we had switched places. Almost everyone in that tea shop - and it was a crowded place - gathered around me and wanted to shake my hand as though I were a rock star.

People in the cities are used to seeing foreigners. Hardly anyone ever stared at me on the streets or paid me much mind. But American civilians in black leather jackets aren’t a common sight in Tawela. It’s the kind of village where hardly anything ever happens, where hardly anything ever changes, so just the act of my showing up was (apparently) a huge deal.

I couldn’t talk to everyone. It would be dark soon and we needed to get down the wet mountain roads before nightfall. But I asked the old man sitting next to me a few questions through my translator Alan.

His name is Osman Sadeq Hakim and he told me he is 64 years old.

Old Man in Tawela.jpg

What was the hardest time this village has seen?

“When the Iran/Iraq war was here,” he said. “That was the worst time. Before the war there were 800 families. Most were displaced. Mine was one of them. The Iraqi army didn’t allow us to enter the village. We had to sneak in through the orchards.”

What are you most afraid of right now?

“Islamists,” he said bluntly without a moment’s hesitation.

Did Ansar Al Islam occupy this village?

“Yes,” he said. “We didn’t want them to stay but they forced themselves on us. They were not as strong here as they were in Biara, but they were still able to impose their rules on us.”

Who belonged to Ansar Al Islam? Were they from around here?

“Indians, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians. The Iranian government supported them against us.”

What do you think of the Iranian government?

“It is not a good regime. We do visit people from there, but we don’t do it officially.”

Were you affected by the Kurdish civil war? (The PUK and the KDP fought a stupid low-level conflict in the mid 1990s.)

“No,” he said. “We were like one family. We did not allow that war to come here.”

Should Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence from Baghdad?

“We are a different people. We have our own history and culture. We will join with the Iranian Kurds, Inshallah.”

A young man who spoke perfect English pushed his way through the crowd that had gathered around. He wanted to make sure he had a chance to speak to me. He crouched down so he could look me in the eye while I sat.

Young Man in Tawela.jpg

What do you think? I asked him. Should Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence?

“If the West stands with us, we want independence for all the Kurds in the world. We are one people. Kurds in Turkey, Syria, and Iran, are exactly like us.”

I wanted to know: What’s the one best thing the West can do for the Kurds? He told me the same old answer that has been bouncing around in this part of the world for decades:

“We want Kurdistan to be the 51st American state.”


Postscript: This concludes my series on Iraqi Kurdistan. Now it’s time for me to hit the road again. I can’t say where I’m going for security reasons, but you’ll find out as soon as I’m back. And this time when I’m “back” I’ll be back in the United States.

A couple of guest bloggers will be filling in for me in the meantime. I will introduce them shortly.

Thanks to everyone who donated money and helped make non-corporate writing financially viable. If you haven’t yet hit my tip jar, now would be a good time. Without reader donations, this kind of blogging wouldn’t be possible.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 09:55 PM | Comments (37)

March 09, 2006

Zarqawi Was Here

BIARA, IRAQ – The PUK’s Minister of the Interior ordered 20 heavily armed Peshmerga soldiers to go with me to the borderland mountain village of Biara. For years the village was occupied by Ansar Al Islam, the Kurdish-Arab-Persian branch of Al Qaeda in Northern Iraq. Biara wasn’t the only village seized by the Taliban of Mesopotamia, but it was perhaps the most important. It is there that the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had his last stand in Iraqi Kurdistan before the 2003 US-led invasion forced him out.

My Peshmerga weren’t really necessary. I told my translator Alan that I was embarrassed so many military resources were being spent on my account. I probably didn’t need any.

“It’s too much,” Alan said and laughed. He, too, was clearly embarrassed. “It’s too much. The minister is doing this to be nice. He wants you to know that he cares about you.”

I introduced myself to some of my Peshmerga guards. There were so many it wasn’t easy to speak to them all. I had a hard time looking them in the eye. Jesus, I thought. These guys must think I’m the biggest wimp in the world. Biara isn’t actually dangerous. Zarqawi hasn’t been there for years. But it wasn’t my idea to bring them along. When the minister said “I will send guards with you” I thought he meant maybe two guys. I cringed when I saw how many picked me up at my hotel in the morning.

My Peshmerga.jpg

Alan and I left Suleimaniya in a convoy. One truck bristling with Peshmerga led the way. Another truck followed. Heads turned as we drove through the small villages. Who might that be was the look on all the faces. I wanted to bury my own face in my hands. It’s just me! I’m not that important! It turned out, though, to be fun.

Peshmerga Disembarking.jpg

I don’t know if these guys actually thought I was a wimp because they had to come with me. They probably did. If so, they did a terrific job hiding it. Most likely they didn’t care. Driving up the mountains and into Biara surely beat boring checkpoint detail or whatever else they would have been otherwise doing.

Arrival in Biara.jpg

We arrived in Biara and parked near the mosque founded long ago by a Sufi mystic from Turkey. Zarqawi lived in that mosque during the Ansar Al Islam occupation. I could tell most of the Peshmerga guys had never been there. They gawked at the mosque and at the mountains like tourists.

Their disposition had drastically changed since morning. At first they were all business. We will protect you said the look on their no-nonsense faces. Now they looked like boys. Cool! Field trip!

After a few oohs and ahs and the pointing of fingers they found a kebab shop and ordered some lunch. Alan and I went over to join them.

Peshmerga Need Food.jpg

“I don’t have enough food for everybody,” the stunned shop owner said, clearly intimidated by the sheer volume of food he would have to prepare all at once. “Try the tea shop down the street.”

Alan and I went to the tea shop down the street and settled in.

Biara Tea House.jpg

The proprietor happily made us Iraq-style tea (dark brown, overflowing, and packed with a wallop of sugar) and delicious kebabs.

There were a few other patrons in the tea shop and they eyed me, the obvious foreigner, with a mixture of curiosity and shyness.

“Do want to talk to some of these people?” Alan said. “I’ll be happy to translate.”

Of course I wanted to talk. That was the reason I went there in the first place.

“Hello,” I said to two slightly goofy looking gentlemen sitting across the tea shop on the other side of the stove.

Friends in Biara Tea House.jpg

They both stepped across and we firmly shook hands.

“Do you want to know about life in Biara?” the one on the left said. He spoke perfect English and I did not need Alan to translate.

“Yes,” I said. “Did you live here when the village was occupied by Zarqawi?”

“I did,” he said. “Life wasn’t good. We had no freedom. TV was banned. Women couldn’t walk outside without an abaya. There was violence. Anyone not affiliated with them was treated badly. During prayer time everyone was required to go to the mosque. If we didn’t go we were insulted and fined 50 dollars.”

50 dollars may not be a lot of money in the United States, but was a huge amount in a remote village in Iraqi Kurdistan while all of Iraq was under international sanctions. People needed the Oil for Food program just to stay alive.

“Did anyone here actually like Ansar Al Islam?” I asked.

“There were one or two very young people,” he said. “I am from here. We never had anything like that before. I was joking with my friends in this tea shop. We were arrested, chained, blindfolded, and beaten. Laughing was banned.”

“They were like the Taliban,” his friend said.

“Did Ansar kill anyone here?” I asked.

“One person was tortured to death,” he said.

The tea shop owner joined the conversation.

“I was accused of being a member of the PUK,” he said, referring to the left-wing Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party. “So they put me in prison.”

Ansar Al Islam’s occupation of Biara and surrounding villages ended in 2003 when the Peshmerga launched a ground invasion with U.S. air support. Biara, including the Zarqawi-occupied mosque, was bombed from the air.

“How did you feel when the Americans bombed your village?” I asked the shopkeeper.

“We were waiting to get rid of them,” he said. “We were desperate. They were the worst people ever. Many people had to close their businesses and leave this place.”

Two other men came into the tea shop. One wore a military uniform, the other wore civilian clothes. They kept to themselves at first, then came over to talk.

Chatting in Biara Tea House.jpg

“Did you ever meet Zarqawi?” I asked the man in civilian clothes.

“Few people saw him,” he said. “He covered his face with a cloth. He wasn’t the boss, though. Chafee was their commander. They had three commanders, actually. We are still afraid of them.”

Apparently the threat to this part of Iraqi Kurdistan isn’t quite over. Otherwise the minister of the interior would not have even thought to send Peshmerga guards with me. But the Islamists haven’t been back since the US and the Peshmerga drove them over the border into Iran. It was hard to imagine they would dare try to come back again without getting themselves killed the instant they arrived.

“When the US attacked,” he said, “they escaped to an Iranian village. Then Iran sent them to Kirkuk. One guy was arrested in Kirkuk and sent back to Iran. Then Iran sent him back to Kirkuk again.”

I paid the bill and made my way to the mosque. It was hard to believe the US actually bombed it and destoyed one whole side. It didn’t look like it was ever even damaged. The mosque was being used as a terrorist nest so it was technically a legitimate military target. Still, it’s a mosque and it seemed to me that bombing it wasn’t the best way to “liberate” it. I thought I would go inside and ask local people who prayed there what they thought about that.

Sufi Mosque Biara.jpg

I took my shoes off outside and went in. Some of the Peshmerga guys came in with me.

Peshmerga in Mosque.jpg

The imam wasn’t around, but we met the mosque caretaker Hussein Mahmoud inside. He was happy to show us around and tell us what’s what.

Three Sufi saints are buried under the mosque dome. Most of the people who pray here aren’t Sufis; they are mainstream Sunni Muslims. But they honor and venerate the mystics for whom the mosque was founded.

Sufi Shrine Biara.jpg

“Zarqawi destroyed the tombs,” the caretaker said. “He and his men turned this room into a toilet.” He shook his head in disgust at the filthy Islamists who fouled their Islamic shrine. Muslims who say Al Qaeda is not really Islamic may have a point.

“You see that there in the floor?” he said. “That’s where they began to install plumbing.”

Zarqawi Plumbing.jpg

I braced myself. “How do you feel about the U.S. bombing this mosque?” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said, as if he had never even pondered the question. “It’s okay, I suppose. I am grateful. If they had not done it this place would still be a toilet.”

Five feet past the last house in Biara is the beginning of Iran. The Iranian government actually asked one person to move his house two feet over because one part of the living room was technically outside Iraq. I walked up a long flight of stone steps to the houses, made of slate bricks, that lined the Iranian border to get a view of the village from above.

Biara from Above.jpg

My Peshmerga came with me. They whipped out their cell phones and used the built-in cameras to take photos of the village just as I did.

Peshmerga Taking Photos.jpg

We couldn’t stay long, though. We were at the edge of Iraq. But there was one more place even more on the edge than this one even higher up in the Kurdistan mountains. We had one more place we needed to see. There was one more village to go…

Postscript: Don’t forget to hit the tip jar. And thanks so much to all of you who have donated money already.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:45 AM | Comments (61)

March 08, 2006

Slow Blogging

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been a bit sick and out it. I am now rejoining the world and will be back directly...

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 08:36 AM | Comments (5)

March 04, 2006


I've done several phone interviews over the last week, and you can listen to two of them in podcast format.

"Tom Paine" from Shire Network News spoke to me from Melbourne, Australia.

And Shawn Wasson interviewed me from Clear Channel in Florida. (Itunes format.) (Flash Player format.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 03:39 AM | Comments (20)

March 03, 2006

“The Head of the Snake”

SULEIMANIYA, IRAQ – Suleimaniya is the most liberal city in Iraqi Kurdistan, partly because of its long-standing and deep ties to nearby Iran, one of the most culturally liberal countries in the Middle East. The Iraqi Kurds I met who have been to Iran wanted me to know – and they want you to know, as well – that the distance between the Iranian people and their hideous regime is galactic. I heard the same refrain over and over again: “Persians are just like us.” In other words, they are liberal, secular, pro-Western, and fed up with tyrants. “Iranians love America,” the Kurds told me. “They have nothing to do with Ahmadinejad.”

All the way back in 1973 Moula Mustafa Barzani, the famous and beloved leader of the anti-Baathist Kurdish resistance, said he wanted Iraqi Kurdistan to become the 51st American state. Nowhere did Barzani’s fierce campaign resonate more deeply than it did in Suleimaniya. Suli isn’t only the cultural capital of the region – its New York, if you will. It also is the capital of Kurdish nationalism. Saddam Hussein called it “The Head of the Snake.”

He answered with genocide. No one in Iraq experienced the full wrath of Saddam’s Black Arabism more than the Kurds. If the Kurds refused to morph themselves into loyal little Baathists, he would erase them from the face of the earth.

The old headquarters of the mukhabarat, the secret police, still stands in one of Suli’s quiet neighborhoods, gutted and pock-marked with bullet holes.

Mukhabarat Headquarters.jpg

On March 7th, 1991, the Peshmerga battled it out here with the locally-based agents of Saddam’s regime. The Baathists fought hard. Surrender was not an option. They knew if they lost that every one of them would be killed. And they were right. After two days the compound was overrun. Those not killed in the fire fight were torn apart in the streets by local citizens.

Bullet holes show the fight was two-directional. You can still see, on the inside of the gate, where the regime’s bullets smacked into the concrete and the bricks while they fired at the Peshmerga beyond. Residential homes still stand in good condition across the street from the gate. These are still known as the Security Houses. The mukhabarat lived there and everyone knew it. No one wanted to walk or drive down through the neighborhood.

Security Houses.jpg

The Kurds left the first shattered building in the compound intact as a memorial. The insides are blackened and strewn with rubble. Only pigeons live in there now.

The second building in the compound was a torture chamber and prison. It has since been turned into a genocide museum. Soviet-built tanks and anti-aircraft guns captured from Saddam’s defeated army are lined up outside.

Tanks in Suli.jpg

Next to the anti-aircraft guns is a white sculpture made by a Suleimaniya artist who happened to be on the grounds when I showed up. It memorializes six Kurdish children who were senselessly gunned down in the streets by the Baath.

Sculpture of Dead Children.jpg

The entrance to the genocide museum is in the back of the building. To get there from the front you have to walk past one of the rape rooms. Women’s underwear and contraceptives were found in that room when the prison was liberated by the Peshmerga.

Rape Room.jpg

When you enter the museum you will walk through a long and winding hallway. The walls are covered with mirror shards. Each represents one of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds murdered in the genocidal Anfal campaign. A river of twinkling lights lines the ceiling. Each represents one of the five thousand villages destroyed by Saddam Hussein.

Shards of Glass.jpg

Past the hallway of mirrors and light is a small room made up to look like a traditional Kurdish home. Houses like these barely exist in the countryside anymore. Saddam Hussein destroyed most of them. The rural part of the country is now eerily empty of people.

Traditional Kurdish Home.jpg

Then the museum begins in earnest. Pictures of Kurdish dead line the walls of the hallways and the old torture chambers and prison cells. I do not believe in ghosts or in lingering negative energy. But if I have ever been in a place that is haunted, this is it.

Pictures of the Kurdish Dead.jpg

Did you know? During the Kurdish uprising after the 1991 Gulf War, almost every last person fled to the mountains. The cities were almost completely emptied of people. Imagine living your life like that. Everyone over the age of 20 remembers it vividly.

Kurdish Exodus.jpg

The Peshmerga fled to the mountains as well. They used those mountains as bases for their military operations against the Saddam regime.

Peshmerga in Mountains.jpg

One picture stood out in particular for me. Below you can see a man who was shot dead while crossing one of the main streets. As it happens, the man is lying directly in front of my hotel.

Dead in Front of Suli Palace.jpg

Some rooms in the museum don’t have pictures at all. Instead they show the instruments and the methods of torture. In one room, the so-called “Washington Room,” men and women had hot electric irons pressed into their skin.

Hanging Rope in Museum.jpg



Dozens of people were packed into single caged cells. This one, pictured below, needed to have blood scrubbed off the walls before it could be opened to visitors.

Blood on the Walls.jpg

The hardest thing to see was the cell used to hold children before they were murdered. My translator Alan read some of the messages carved into the wall.

“I was ten years old. But they changed my age to 18 for execution.”

Where is my sister.jpg

“Dear Mom and Dad. I am going to be executed by the Baath. I will not see you again.”

Girl Behind Barbed Wire.jpg

10,725 people were killed in this one building alone. All died during torture. Formal execution actually took place in Abu Ghraib.

Postscript: Please hit my tip jar and help make non-corporate writing financially viable. Thanks in advance, and thanks for all your donations so far.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 05:28 AM | Comments (192)

March 01, 2006

Day Off

I'm taking the day off blogging to write a rather lengthy magazine article. I'll be back tomorrow with more photos from Suleimaniya, Iraq. These will be grimmer than what you have seen so far. Iraqi Kurdistan has a horrific (recent) past. Never forget when you look at the pretty pictures of new construction that these people are recovering from genocide.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 07:23 AM | Comments (7)