Monday, 31 October 2011
Canada’s Misadventure in Libya

David B. Harris is a Canadian lawyer, a 30 year veteran of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. He is currently director of the International Intelligence program of INSIGNIS Strategic Research, Inc. He is a widely published intelligence commentator whose work frequently appears in the opinion columns of The Ottawa Citizen and The Calgary Herald. His advices have also been sought by US Congressional  and intelligence committees and forums. We count Harris as a close friend and colleague on these matters. Harris is not afraid to take his government to task for international faux pas in the area of counterterrorism. Given rapidly emerging troubling developments in the wake of the toppling of the late Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddaffi, Harris is concerned about the untoward security effects from Canada’s participation in this North African regime change. He makes it out as an object lesson of that adage be careful what you wish for. His warnings to Canada’s Harper Government in Ottawa about the Libyan misadventure can also be leveled at the leaders of the UK , France, and most certainly at President Obama, who has done a victory lap after leading from behind and letting NATO carry the ball across the goal line.

In this Canadian HuffPO column, “Canada’s Misadventure in Libya,” Harris issues a warning that the ‘victory’ in Libya may unleash an Islamic terrorism threat against the very same NATO forces that liberated the country.

Here are some telling excerpts:

We launched a regime-change operation without any idea who would replace Gaddafi. In an orgy of post facto fact-finding, Foreign Minister John Baird raced into Libya with the foregone political conclusion: the rebels are our pals. French President Sarkozy achieved something similar by sending philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy -- "God is dead but my hair is perfect," goes the current jibe -- to Libya to rubber stamp comparably rash declarations.

Such people were oblivious to the Sinjar Records. These captured documents pinpoint origins of foreign terrorists in Iraq, and give evidence of the kinds of Islamists who might replace Gaddafi. West Point's Combating Terrorism Center concluded from these papers that Libya supplied roughly double per capita the terrorists provided by that 9/11 terrorist launch-pad, Saudi Arabia.

As one news source reported, "of the half of Libyans who listed their "work" in Iraq, more than 85 per cent volunteered to be suicide bombers." Nice work if you can get it.

As an illustration of the possibilities, consider that today's garrison-commander of the all-important Tripoli area is Abdul Hakim Belhadj, an apparent extremist. A veteran of the 1980s' Afghan jihad, he is reportedly a former head of the Islamist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Belhadj led the country's al-Qaeda underground, and was targeted by the CIA's renditions' program.

Then there were people like Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda bin Qumu, veteran of the Afghan jihad who was released from Guantanamo prison. Now a significant rebel leader, Qumu was declared by U.S. authorities "a probable member of al-Qaeda," according to the New York Times.

Add to this, reports that Sudan's army -- the sharp end of Khartoum's genocidal Islamist regime -- may have fought in Libya on the side of our National Transitional Council 'allies,' and be ready to shape the new Libyan leadership -- with Iran's help.

Then there is the draft Libyan constitution, imposing Sharia Islamic law. Such systems in other countries commonly manifest themselves in various forms of religious and gender apartheid. In Saudi Arabia, Iran and -- increasingly -- 'Arab Spring' Egypt, for example, non-Muslims are debased as second-class citizens, or worse, and women valued in fractional terms of men. As though to demonstrate the threat, the new post-Gaddafi acting Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril announced as a first act of "liberation" the quashing of Gaddafi laws banning polygamy.

Now that the possibility of a radical-Islamic Libya is finally dawning on western leaders, the White House and its allies have something further to fear: obtuse war-planning may have caused about 20,000 portable Libyan surface-to-air (SAM) missiles to go missing. Missiles like this eat airliners for breakfast.

Our political commanders ignored facts, especially this one: without enough boots on the ground, you cannot guard the arms depots of the state you've R2Ped into chaos. Guns and bombs -- and 20,000 missiles -- can go loose, be used by enemies to kill our forces and, eventually, average citizens here at home.

So what is the result of all this R2P adventuring?

Canada charged into a military mission with no guarantee about which of our enemies might ultimately run Libya as a base targeting Canadians. Muslim Brotherhood? Al-Qaeda? Iran? Sudan? Some combination?

And to reinforce the risks, we supported international funding of Libya's new jumble of leadership, a leadership that is proving sympathetic to Sharia impositions.

Meanwhile, North Korea tells Britain's ambassador that the Libyan intervention taught Kim Jong-Il never to give up his nukes. Gaddafi did, they said, and look what happened to him. Has Canada helped save thousands in Libya only to hazard the future of millions of potential nuclear victims, including those West Coast Canadians within Pyongyang's ballistic missile range?


Posted on 10/31/2011 11:16 PM by Jerry Gordon
Monday, 31 October 2011
Vali Nasr Opposes The Iranian Regime But Wants To Protect It From Military Attack At All Costs, And Tries To Convince Americans To Leave Iran Alone

As an adviser to the American government, and now at Tufts, Vali Nasr continues his career as a Defender of the Faith - the Faith being Shi'a Islam. He's worried that there may be either an attack by the West (America, Israel, or both in tandem) or by the Sunnis, and can foresee what the latter would mean for the world's Shi'a.

Here he is attempting to convince an American audience, through his column at Bloomberg News, that Iran will self-destruct so there is no need to make a move. But the Islamic Republic of Iran will never be dislodged if it acquires nuclear weapons. The primitive Iranian masses will rally round forever. The West cannot tolerate that. But it can tolerate what would happen after an attack to destroy that nuclear project. The Iranian masses would rally round -- for a few months. And then the spectacle of the humiliation, and the impotence (for the Islamic Republic will be too fearful to retaliate, knowing what might follow), and the recognition of the colossal waste of the whole project, will weaken the Islamic Republic of Iran, and make it possible for it to be, at long last, brought down. This Vali Nasr cannot allow himself to recognize.

Here's his piece:

From Bloomberg News:

Nasr: Why Contain Iran When Its Own Aims Will Do That?


In both exercises, there is room for misjudgment. In fact, Iran has not become more ambitious of late; rather, its aspirations have been underestimated. As for attempting to rein in Iran, that could prove both counterproductive and unnecessary. [no convincing vidence is offered to support either, assertion for the "attempt to rein in" through military means has not been tried, and the past decade of trying through other means suggests, pace Vali Nasr, that it will be necessary]

Until recently, the U.S. government regarded Iran as subdued, weakened and relatively isolated. There was considerable evidence for this view. Iran’s leadership is deeply divided. Its economy is reeling as a result of economic sanctions, which have reduced trade and therefore contact with the Arab world.

What’s more, Iran’s standing in the Middle East appeared to be declining after the Arab Spring. The “Arab street,” once enamored with Iran’s bluster, is now turned off by the country’s suppression of dissent at home and its support for the oppressive Syrian regime. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put down a growing uprising. The possibility of a collapse of the Assad regime threatens to confound Iran’s plans for regional domination. Syria is Iran’s main Arab ally and its conduit for aid to Hezbollah, the militant, Islamist Lebanese group that Iran has used as a proxy to menace Israel, the U.S., Lebanon itself and others.

From Tehran, however, the situation looks quite different. For one thing, Iran is not as worried about losing sway in a post-Assad Syria as many in the West think. Iran calculates that until Syria gets back the Golan Heights, a plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 war, any government in Damascus will need Hezbollah as a force to pressure Israel. And with Hezbollah comes Iranian influence.

Iran’s leaders are clearly preparing for the possibility of Assad’s fall. Even while claiming nefarious outsiders are fomenting the unrest in Syria, they have begun to add veiled criticisms of the regime’s brutal crackdown, an obvious means of pandering to the street.

What’s more, Iran’s leaders perceive that it is the U.S. position, not theirs, that has weakened in the region. They see U.S. troops withdrawing precipitously from both Iraq and Afghanistan; U.S. relations with Pakistan turning ever more sour; and Arab dictators who have been propped up by America for years under threat or already gone. The brazen nature of the Washington assassination plot supports the idea that Iran sees the U.S. as soft.

Given this perception, Iran is asserting itself. In the past two years, it has eschewed serious engagement with the U.S. on the Iranian nuclear program, Afghanistan or anything else. Rebuffing the U.S. idea of a hot line to avoid conflict in the Persian Gulf, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Iran’s navy commander said, “The presence of the U.S. in the Persian Gulf is illegitimate and makes no sense.”

Iran’s goals are to hasten the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq and fill the void left behind. Iran has increased its outreach to the Taliban and is pushing to complete a project to supply natural gas to Pakistan through a pipeline connecting the two countries. In Iraq, it has supported stepped-up attacks by the Iranian-backed Shiite resistance and is talking about having an expanded role after the Americans leave, for instance by volunteering to train the military. Iran is also exploring diplomatic relations with Egypt, which it has not had in years.

In this U.S. election season, presidential candidates will be tempted to propose strategies to contain Iran’s aspirations. To be seriously effective, such plans would require Arab countries as well as Russia and China, major trading partners of Iran, to sign on to a concerted policy of isolating the country. That’s unlikely to happen, given the Arab world’s preoccupation with Libya and Syria and the eagerness of Russia and China to do business with Iran.

Moreover, if the U.S. confronts Iran directly, it would probably work to the advantage of Iranian leaders, allowing them to divert attention from domestic woes such as inflation, unemployment and the embarrassing alienation between Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The U.S. should not hand them that opportunity. [see comments above for a rebuttal]

The alternative is to let Iran’s ambitious regional strategy play out. So far, it hasn’t gone so well. Iran has clashed over Syria with Turkey, which is hosting anti-Assad forces. And Iran’s strained relations with the other big Mideast power, Saudi Arabia, have been tested anew by the Washington plot and by the suspicious assassination in May of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi, Pakistan.

Iran expects greater influence in Iraq and Afghanistan once U.S. troops leave, but with that will come greater burdens. Once absent, America can no longer be the focus of opposition in both places. Instead, Iran may replace the U.S. as the target of popular anger, blamed for the failure of government to meet people’s needs. Iran may prove no more able to pacify Iraq and Afghanistan than the U.S. has been. Iran is adept at causing security headaches in the region but is untested when it comes to resolving them.

Failure on that front would leave Iran, rather than the U.S., in the middle of renewed civil conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan. It also would have direct implications for Iran domestically. Renewed chaos in either country would send refugees flooding into Iran and increase drug trafficking and violence in the border areas. [the West cannot wait for this to happen, because the nuclear project is going full-steam ahead; even if this "renewed civil conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan" happens, as it likely will, and such conflict will be good, it won't stop that nuclear project -- only military force will do so, and that is the whole point of Vali Nasr's piece -- to head off that use of force]

Iran may come to remember fondly the period when the U.S. military absorbed resentments in the region.

Posted on 10/31/2011 10:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 31 October 2011
A Musical Interlude: Love Me Tonight (Annette Hanshaw)

Listen here.

Posted on 10/31/2011 10:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 31 October 2011
Is Europe being

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Vienna Courtroom, November, 2010

Earlier today, we published a review of a new book by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea of the Washington, DC –based Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom, Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide.  

The title of our review now appears to be prescient: Warning! The OIC Wants to Silence Free Speech Around the Globe.

Our bottom line review comment about the Marshall Shea volume was:

It is a powerful indictment of the Saudi-based OIC that strives, as the authors say “ostensibly to protect Islam from criticism but also serves the purpose of shielding from criticism those who claim the right to rule in the name of Islam. [It is] intended to demand that Western governments punish all those within their borders who have purportedly insulted Islam.” 

In our review we discussed the OIC agenda and the complicity of the EU and the Obama Administration. We noted:

Silenced contains important documentation of the agenda of the OIC and its prominent members - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. That agenda, as the title conveys, is to impose Islamic Sharia doctrine on Western freedom of speech.   

[. . .]

The OIC's anti- blasphemy agenda has been presented in the EU, obsessed with multiculturalism until recent declarations of failure by major leaders in the UK, France and Germany. The authors note the adoption in 2008 of new hate speech guidelines by the Council of Europe (CoE):

. . . [would make individuals] subject to prosecution, offending authors, artists, and including those who have directly or indirectly contributed to the circulation of such statement or work of art; publishers, editors, broadcasters, journalists, art dealers, artistic directors or museum managers.

They point out that the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe used operative terms like “gratuitously offensive speech,” “no right to offend” and the new language of “religious freedom of citizens and their religious feelings not to be insulted.”

Prior to finishing the review we had received notice from Elizabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff of Vienna, Austria about an upcoming OSCE Meeting in Vienna on November 10-11th on “The Prevention of Racism, Xenophobia and Hate Crimes through Educational and Awareness-Raising Initiatives.”

We cited Ms. Wolff in our NER book review as one of the brave free thinkers in the EU convicted for criticizing Islam, a religion she  learned about first hand from her episodes of living in the Muslim Ummah as the daughter of diplomats and later as a translator. During our interview with her –see here - she provided insights into her background and why she considers free speech imperiled in the EU. She told us how important our First Amendment is in protecting free speech both here and abroad. She learned that through a ‘boring’ middle school civics class in Chicago when her parents were posted there. Her conviction and fines handed down by a Viennese court were the results of a hearing brought by a leftist Austrian news weekly. The court decision was indicative that criticism of Islam is verboten under laws in Ms. Wolff’s Austria.

This evening, we received evidence of how far the OIC agenda of silencing free speech has gone in the EU. We received a forthcoming article from Adam Savit of the Center for Security Policy (CSP) containing the comments of Wolff about the release on October 28th of new guidelines for teachers on Islamophobia produced by the ODIHR, the Council of Europe and UNESCO and the presence of OIC representatives. The CSP is endeavoring, in response to Ms. Wolff’s request, to solicit representatives of US NGOs concerned about these developments in the EU to send representatives to the supplementary OSCE meeting in Vienna on November 10-11thth.

What follows is the CSP release with comments from Wolff of Pax Europa:

 On 28 October the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held a conference in Vienna on “confronting intolerance and discrimination against Muslims in public discourse.” Among the featured speakers was Special Adviser to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Ömür Orhun. The OIC has been persistent in its efforts to combat any free and open debate about Islam and Shariah.

Free speech advocate Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff represented Pax Europa at the conference insisting that:

…criticism of a religion, including Islam, must remain legitimate. This is echoed by the OSCE: “Criticisms of religious practices . . . are legitimate speech.” We believe, however, that while Muslims are not a monolithic group, for those Muslims who accept Islam as an ideology, there are elements of Islamic law that are monolithic, in that all Muslims worldwide, whether they live in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, consider the Koran and the Hadith (authentic sayings of Mohammed) as the basis of their legal system. Certainly groups like the Muslim Brotherhood profess this! How are groups like Pax Europa to discuss such issues if not allowed to speak to the language and doctrines that define them?

Despite this the OSCE released a 72-page document entitled Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims: Addressing Islamophobia through Education co-published by ODIHR, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. It is interesting to note that UNESCO today recognized and admitted “Palestine” as a member state despite the governance of the annihilationist Islamic movement Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority which continues to incite violence against Jews in media and textbooks.

“The first of its kind, this document addresses the specific characteristics of intolerance against Muslims and provides practical guidance to educators on how to address this issue in the classroom,” said Janez Lenar?i?, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The OSCE is holding a similar meeting on November 10-11 in Vienna entitled “Prevention of Racism, Xenophobia and Hate Crimes through Educational and Awareness-Raising Initiatives.” Unfortunately due to the dominance at the OSCE of bad actors such as the Turkish organization Council for Justice, Equality and Peace (COJEP), these meetings focus inordinate attention on “Islamophobia” and essentially advocate for enforcing Shariah blasphemy codes on non-Muslim nation-states that infringe upon basic free speech rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Any non-governmental organization (NGO) can register, and your base of operations need not be Europe. The OSCE describes itself as “the world's largest regional security organization” whose membership includes “56 States from Europe, Central Asia and North America,” including the United States. We encourage all free-speech minded NGO’s to register here for the next conference starting on November 10. The registration deadline is technically tomorrow, but the OSCE regularly allows late registrations.

Posted on 10/31/2011 9:23 PM by Jerry Gordon
Monday, 31 October 2011
John F. Burns Still Can't Envisage A Victory In Iraq Defined As Internecine Warfare
October 31, 2011

A Complicated Close for U.S. in Iraq

John F. Burns, The New York Times’s senior foreign correspondent, covered the months leading up to the war in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 from inside Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, then served as Baghdad bureau chief from 2004 to 2007.

LONDON — Nine weeks left, and common sense at last, after nearly nine years of agony and misgiving: that, assuredly, has been the reaction of many Americans to President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by Dec. 31. Polls have long shown that a majority of Americans considered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 to have been a major mistake, the costs in lost American and Iraqi lives too high, the burden of at least three-quarters of a trillion dollars in American military spending too heavy for American taxpayers to bear, the damage to America’s standing in the world likely to take long years to repair.

History will render its own judgment on the ways that America’s war was brought to an end, and those negatives, incontrovertible as they seem now, may in time be weighed against other factors still in the balance, including the price to be paid for pulling out in terms of the consequences for Iraq’s tortured course to a post-Saddam Hussein political settlement. At the worst, as some high-ranking Iraqi officials and American military commanders warned in the course of the negotiations that preceded Mr. Obama’s Oct. 21 announcement, the removal of the tripwire that a residual American force of some size would have represented could open the way for a new fracturing of Iraq’s fragile and fractious political center.

Down that road, in the darkest reckonings, lie the possibility of worsening violence by Sunni and Shiite militias; [why is this a bad thing? Why is this not a good thing? Does John F. Burns, senior correspondent for the New York Times, not think the Iran-Iraq War was, for the world's non-Muslims, a good thing? Does he not agree it should ideally have gone on forever?] a resurgence of al Qaeda as a murderous wild card; an intensification of covert Iranian meddling and offsetting manipulations by Iran’s enemies among the region’s Sunni-majority states; and heightened factional strains within the Iraqi security forces, even their gradual disintegration.[the list of horribles is a list of desiderata if the goal is understood to be the weakening of the Camp of Islam. This is something that is apparently as impossible for John F. Burns to conceive as it is for any of those who have been making policy in Washington in the last decade. Why?] With American troops gone, and with them the role they have played as the ultimate guarantor of the new constitutional rules adopted under American occupation, all bets, at least potentially, will be off.

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Interactive Feature Drawing Down, Moving Ahead

The end of the combat mission in Iraq will open a precarious new chapter in the Iraqi-American post-invasion relationship.

Could there be a return to the incipient civil war of 2005 to 2007? A military coup in Baghdad, and the rise of a new Iraqi strongman (if not, all would hope, in the brutal tradition of Saddam)? Yes, to both questions — though the argument that has prevailed in American deliberations is that both outcomes are unlikely, and in any case ultimately unavoidable, if American troops are not to be held hostage interminably to the insolubles of Iraqi politics. Optimists in the White House and State Department, and proud office-holders in the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, insist that the new Iraqi institutions, including the armed forces and the supremacy of parliament, are sufficiently rooted now, and the resolve of most Iraqis not to allow a return to chaos so firm, that there can be no going back.

In any case, Mr. Maliki was unable to muster the political backing he needed, particularly from the powerful political bloc headed by the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, for giving the Pentagon the guarantees it wanted of indemnity from Iraqi courts, a condition that has been a staple of all American deployments overseas, including Germany, where American forces have been based continuously since 1945. Those blocking the indemnity surely knew what they were doing in placing an effective veto on any continued American troop presence. In the case of Mr. Sadr — the perennial American nemesis in Iraq, a man who twice led uprisings against American troops and the mentor of a street politics that turned on seething demonstrations calling for an American withdrawal — he may well see the Obama announcement as his greatest triumph, removing the ultimate impediment to his own vaunting political ambitions.

But Mr. Sadr is only a symbol of a much wider concern. The unremitting reality of the new Iraq is that America will be leaving behind a country that has failed to resolve any of the deep fissures that lay hidden, and suppressed, under the carapace of Saddam’s tyranny. Over the best part of a decade since America set out to engender the attitudes fundamental to the building of a civil society, perilously little has been achieved that promises to survive the American era: no abiding level of trust between rival sectarian, regional and political groups, rooted in the recognition of an overriding common interest; no ingrained willingness to compromise, on the division of power, and, in Iraq, on disputes over territory, division of the nation’s oil wealth, and other spoils; and no convincing commitment to forsake retribution and vengeance for past ills, real or imagined.

These are Iraqi, not American, failures, and it may yet be that Iraqis, in their own reckoning of the best and the worst that the American invasion brought them, will, over the years, come to a more balanced ledger than seemed likely during the most tumultuous years of the occupation. Anybody watching the terrible, bloodied end of Muammar el-Qaddafi in the heat and dust of Libya this month — his summary execution by the rebels, and all the foreboding that carried for Libya as it sets out to construct its own future — could pause to reflect on the more orderly, or at least less barbaric, capture of Saddam Hussein by American troops in December 2003.

There was no lynching then, but a prolonged interrogation in American custody that guaranteed Saddam’s safety; and, ultimately a trial, flawed as it was, as was a court-approved execution, touched by elements of mob justice. The dissimilarities were instructive, but so, too, the similarities, in the popular rejoicing that came with both dictators’ ends. That, on balance, will surely be counted among the positives of the American war, to be set against the chaos, and the loss of more than 100,000 civilian lives, that Iraq has endured as the price of the war.

Mr. Obama left room in his announcement for an agreement in future negotiations with the Iraqi government on basing a modest-size American training mission in Iraq, or perhaps in neighboring Kuwait, after the last main force troops have left. But even at the thicker end of the numbers that have been under discussion in recent months — 3,000 to 5,000, based in Iraq — the force levels, and their limited combat capabilities, might not have been a sufficient tripwire to inhibit the extremes of political mayhem. To achieve that would have required the much larger American residual force, up to 50,000, that was under discussion since the Dec. 31, 201,1 withdrawal date was affirmed by Mr. Obama last year.

That was an option that won strong favor among some powerful Iraqis, including some in Mr. Maliki’s inner circle, who had been in the forefront of those demanding an end to the American occupation in the years when the demagogic rewards of playing to the Iraqi gallery came at no practical risk, since there was no prospect, then, of that happening. In the past year, in particular, with the prospect of facing the future without the steadying presence of American troops pressing in, an increasing band of Iraqis in the new establishment in Baghdad have been saying, some publicly and many more privately, that it is too soon for the American hand to be removed. One of the most powerful of these voices was that of Babakir Zebari, Iraq’s army chief of staff — a Kurd, incidentally, and thus by nature sensitive to changes that could make the Kurds hostage again to an aggressive, winner-takes-all government in Baghdad — who has said that Iraq’s forces will not be ready to guarantee the country’s security on their own until 2020.

As would be expected, none of the worst-case possibilities found voice in Mr. Obama’s announcement about the withdrawal. For anybody who experienced the war at its worst, there was a sense of deep relief for America, and a reaffirmation of the workings of American democracy, in hearing Mr. Obama’s resonant words: “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.” And: “The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in support of our troops. This is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”

No cut-and-run here, but the fulfillment of a pledge Mr. Obama made in his 2008 campaign, and of a political and military plan going back well before that, which was hinged to a progressive winding down of the American military involvement. While the mechanics of the drawdown were often argued over bitterly, among American commanders as much as among American politicians, the basic aim of handing the security of Iraq back to its own forces — “We stand down, they stand up” — has been unwavering since Gen. George W. Casey was the American commander in Baghdad from 2004 to 2007. General Casey, of course, gave way to Gen. David H. Petraeus, who emerged as the dominant American commander of the war after President George W. Bush chose him to replace General Casey and to oversee the 30,000-strong “surge” of 2007-9 that saw such a rapid turnaround of America’s fortunes in the conflict.

General Casey argued against the surge, and paid with his command for his persistence, but his arguments then are worth recalling as the American war approaches its end. A few weeks before the surge was announced, and at a time when the arguments over the surge were being fought out in tense teleconferences between the White House and General Casey and his command staff in Baghdad, the general explained his views as we flew over the Iraqi desert in a Black Hawk helicopter after visiting an Iraqi police training base 100 miles south of Baghdad.

His voice barely audible in my headset over the roar of the rotors, he said that he agreed that military gains, particularly in Baghdad, could be won with the five additional combat brigades that Mr. Bush — and General Petraeus — favored. But without progress among Iraqi leaders to a broad political “reconciliation,” he said, any gains would be temporary, and vulnerable to being reversed when the course toward withdrawal resumed. The net of it, he said, was that the expenditure of more American lives, and more American money, as well as further strains on America’s already depleted fighting capability, could end with the country back where it was at the outset, dependent on recalcitrant Iraqi politicians (not the word he used) for the exit from Iraq that Americans so clearly wanted. “At some point,” he said, “they have to understand that we’re going.”

That point, barring some last-minute reversal by Mr. Maliki and his colleagues, appears now to have been reached. It may be too soon for their political agenda, and it may risk America having to watch from afar as the sands of Iraq bury all it had hoped to bequeath, in terms of a stable, sustainable government and at least the foundations of a civil society. But America, for all its mistakes — including, as so many believe, the decision to invade in the first place — will at least have the comfort of knowing that it did pretty much all it could do, within the limits of popular acceptance in blood and treasure, to open the way for a better Iraqi future. ["blood and treasure" -- if anyone writes that phrase, or uses it, thinking he is hitting a high churchillian note, he's wrong -- for many decades it has been a comical phrase, used by the careless, and those who use it deserve ridicule]]


Posted on 10/31/2011 3:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 31 October 2011
One for the Rat

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (November 2011)

I made a visit to what is left of Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire last week. 

Sherwood Forest was one of the King’s largest hunting properties, many miles of deer park which was not all thick woodland. Some was open heath and grassland. At its largest it covered one fifth of the county of Nottinghamshire. The name Sherwood is first recorded in 958AD in the form Sciryuda meaning Woodland belonging to the Shire. more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 3:23 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
Why? What do you mean, why?

by Mary Jackson (November 2011)

When he was five, my nephew’s idea of a joke was:

“Two girls walking down the street.  Which one has the blue dress on?”  more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 3:08 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
The Bee and the Lamb

(Part 1)

by Takuan Seiyo (November 2011)

The bee in its host

On a freezing day in late November 1913, an indigent with a sorrow-etched face and no topcoat was ejected in a wilderness area from a train headed from Estonia to Warsaw. He had no ticket, for he could not afford one. An eighth child of a dirt-poor Estonian peasant, the outcast was on his way to claim the throne of Poland to which he was convinced he was the rightful heir. more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 2:58 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
In Libya, Where Amuraths An Amurath Succeeds

From The Guardian:

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

October 31, 2011

Libya after Gaddafi: new freedoms and songs of revolution bring same old fears

In his second dispatch from Tripoli, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad follows the victors of the country's civil war and finds that the new militias are motivated by vengeance and rivalry in equal measure

In post-Gaddafi Libya, patrols by fighters from rebel military councils have led to clashes with residents in districts around Tripoli. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP

The military council of the Freemen of Libya Brigade sat around a table in an abandoned compound in Tripoli. Sunk deep into leather chairs designed for more prosperous times, they were contemplating the fate of a load of "cargo" they were about to receive.

"We have a big cargo coming. We need a big car," said Essam, jovial with a shaved head and a long goatee.

He was the only proper "revolutionary" on the council, having smuggled weapons into Tripoli by sea during the uprising, fought in the western mountains and led a small unit in the battle to liberate Tripoli in the final days before the collapse of the regime.

"Take the pick-up truck," said a man with crinkly hair and a thin moustache. He was a former general in the internal security police. He had defected to the rebel cause in June, he said.

"It's a lot of cargo, effendi," objected Essam. "Why don't they take the prison truck?" suggested the third man, a former intelligence officer.

"Take the prison truck but make sure to send a car filled with guards," said the fourth, a former security officer who always carried a pile of papers that gave him the look of a maths teacher. The big prison truck wasn't ready, so the men finally agreed on the pick-up truck.

The four were members of one of the many rebel military councils that have sprung all over Tripoli since it fell.

They were busying themselves with detaining former members of the Gaddafi regime, collecting weapons from his sympathisers, providing security and running their own jail and justice system. The council members spent hours every day meeting people who came with grievances against former militiamen or security officers.

They issued warrants and dispatched teams to apprehend the wanted men, and ran a well-stocked jail. There was also a resident prosecutor whose job was to question suspects, order their release or extend the detention time.

"Of course, if they are regime criminals, when you ask them about their crimes, they will deny them," said the man who looked like a maths teacher. "We have to use some pressure on them to make them confess." After the meeting, Essam briefed his soldiers.

Among them were experienced fighters, a driver, a mechanical engineer, an oil engineer. The rest consisted of young men in brand new fatigues and bandanas. They climbed into two pick-up trucks, one mounted with a heavy machine gun. I sat next to Essam in a truck that was mounted with an iron box with only a small grille for ventilation. This truck was for the "cargo".

We drove to Abu Salim in southern Tripoli, a poor neighbourhood of low-rise, state housing apartment buildings, painted in beige and revolutionary green, which the rebels accuse of being pro-Gaddafi. Almost every other building was pockmarked with heavy machine gun bullets. Some of the apartments were burnt and gutted, charred furniture jutting out of the windows. When we arrived rebels had sealed off the area by parking their war wagons in the middle of streets. A rebel car with two loudspeakers passed up and down the main street broadcasting revolutionary songs. The plan was simple, Essam said. Gaddafi had distributed a lot of guns to the people of this neighbourhood. The rebels would go from house to house, search for weapons and detain wanted fugitives.

Three units were to conduct this operation, one from Misrata, one from Essam's Freemen of Libya unit, and the local rebel military council of Abu Salim. The Misratans, experienced and well-equipped, had a reputation as ruthless fighters who didn't trust anyone else. Essam's unit respected them but didn't really like them, and both the Misratans and the Freemen mistrusted the local rebels of Abu Salim. "They became rebels after Tripoli was liberated," said one of Essam's men, smirking.

There was a commotion among the fighters when we arrived after a fighter from the Freemen of Libya had attacked a Misratan fighter. The Misratan, thin, bearded and missing his front teeth, was wearing a military jacket with the rank of colonel.

The Freeman said it was the rank of Gaddafi, and as such it was an insult to the revolution. The Misratan insisted on wearing it and more fighters were joining the fray. Essam stopped the possible brawl by thrusting his massive belly between the factions. He shouted at his men to gather under a faraway building. They stood around him like ducklings, filled with awe and admiration.

"I want you to split into three groups: each group take a separate building," he said.

The fighters shouted a rebel war cry and ran with their guns. Essam followed with his pistol drawn, leading three teenage fighters into one of the buildings. In the dark and filthy entrance of the building, one fighter stood behind the door pointing his gun at the hostile neighbourhood outside, while Essam and the others climbed the stairs. There was a smell of burnt cooking oil.

The fighters banged on the door of the first apartment. A teenage boy opened it. The fighters did not look much older than him. "Do you have weapons?" shouted the fighters at the same time.


"How's that possible? You all took weapons from the brigades."

"No, we didn't," replied the boy.

"You did. You'd better bring out the weapons and no one will harm you. If we get in then we'll rip up the house." A frail old woman in a white headscarf that covered her shoulders came to the door to ask what was happening. "They want to search the house for weapons," she was told.

"My boys," said the woman. "We couldn't believe it when we got rid of Gaddafi, who used to send his men knocking at doors to terrorise us. Now you are doing the same."

"We are not the same," thundered Essam. "We are not Gaddafi's men. We don't kill and torture, we ask politely. If you have no weapons then who is shooting at us? You people of Abu Salim are all pro-Gaddafi. Your sons, where are they? Why are they hiding?"

The young fighters searched the flat but found nothing. They took the boy's mobile from him "to look for suspicious numbers" and moved on to the second flat. Here two men opened the door. The same conversation took place. A search turned up a bayonet sheath.

"Where is the gun?" asked Essam.

"No gun," replied one of the flat's occupants. "Just this. A friend gave me the knife. I threw it away." The fighters grabbed the man and dragged him downstairs, pushing him with the muzzle of a gun. They put him in the metal box in the back of the pickup and shot the bolt.

Then someone fired into the air.

Like cats hearing the sound of a bird, the fighters stood tensely, straining their ears. Then one by one, they started firing their guns, a staccato at first then cascading into a monsoon of bullets. The teenage fighters ran to hide behind the buildings, sticking their guns from around a corner and firing. The more experienced fighters stood in the middle of the street and fired.

Everyone was shooting in the direction of an imagined enemy somewhere in the near distance. The Freemen were squeezed between the Misratans and Abu Salim rebels, the Misratan bullets were whizzing close by, while both Misratans and the Freemen bullets were landing near the Abu Salim lot.

Essam knew it was just a matter of time before a real battle between the three groups started. He walked in the middle of the street and raised his arms, shouting: "Stop, stop". His voice was lost in the cacophony of bullets but his big body did the work and gradually the firing subsided.

Someone shouted "sniper" and pointed at the first building in the street. A dozen men ran towards it.

A few minutes later they emerged dragging a boy. Two men squeezed his neck in a head lock while the rest kicked and punched him. More men joined the frenzy. They dragged him into a car and the fighters pushed and shoved each other to squeeze through the door and attack the boy, shouting insults. "Gaddafi dog", "son of a whore" ... The boy lay there taking the punishment. He didn't cry or shout. Someone put a small video camera in front of his face and asked him why he fought for Gaddafi.

The father of the boy, a short, fat man, emerged panting from the building. "Take me with him," he pleaded. He tried to get into the car but the fighters were still crowding around the door trying to land blows on the boy. No one paid him any attention. Eventually he was allowed to go into the metal box on the back of Essam's pickup.

The fighters resumed the search for suspects. First they brought three black men. They were apparently all Libyans but the rebels said they might be mercenaries with fake ID cards.

Then a half-blind Tunisian was brought in. They had found the sights of a mortar at his house. "I was trying to sell it," said the Tunisian meekly. "I can't even see."

"We will make you see when we get you to jail," said a fighter. The box was filling up. It stood in the hot sun and the prisoners were making faint complaining noises. As we drove around the neighbourhood, the "cargo" banged against the hot metal shell of the box in the back every time Essam swerved violently around the narrow streets.

Almost all of Essam's men had spent time in Gaddafi's prisons. Many of them had told me harrowing stories about tiny airless cells and the torture inflicted on them.

We parked at another street. A woman in a black headscarf and a black dress shouted at Essam and his men from her first floor window: "You are not different from that dog Gaddafi. You are all the same. We are tired of this."

A girl dragged her inside and shut the window. A hostile crowd of people was gathering now. It was 4pm.

Thirteen men piled into the iron box were knocking at its sides, saying they couldn't breathe. There were confiscated weapons stashed in the rebel pickup, along with mobile phones. A whole neighbourhood that might have been sympathetic to Gaddafi had now become entrenched in its hostility to the rebels. We drove back to the company compound where the "cargo" was locked up in a cell.

"The people of Abu Salim were not terrorised by the gunmen sweeping through the neighbourhood or because there was shooting," a doctor who worked in Abu Saleem hospital later told me. "It was because of the arbitrary nature of the arrest. You don't know who or when you will be arrested. You can be arrested any time for any reason or even without a reason.

"This is what created the fear in Gaddafi's Libya, Saddam's Iraq and in Syria now. It is sad to see this happening in our revolutionary Libya." A few days later I stood next to a Abu Baker, a rebel commander in Tajoura. He was fat and long bearded and very funny and energetic, he jumped from one leg to other all the time.

He was the neighbourhood football cheerleader, he used his network of football contacts to organise the resistance to Qaddafi's police and security forces.

He stood manning a checkpoint at the main street in Tajoura that was also an exit point from Tripoli on the coastal road.

He stopped the small mini vans and looked inside, and randomly picked people for questioning.

"you, and you amd you." He pinted at three men, one sitting in the first seat and two in the back row.

One of the back row guys produced a rebel card, the other two were pulled out of the car.

Surrounded by his gunmen he took the two men to a nearby prefabricated (room caravan the thing used in construction sights.)

"I know you both were soldiers for Gaddafy, hand your weapons and you are free to go."

One quickly agreed, he called his family to bring him a gun so he can hand it to Abu Baker to get released.

The other, said he had no gun, though he admitted that he was a conscripted soldier few years ago.

He was handcuffed and pushed down on his knees Abu Baker towering over him, a setting sun filled the room with warm orange light.

"My son give me your weapon."

"I don't have one." replied the young man.

Abu baker slapped him hard on his cheek, his eyes filled with tears.

"See what happens when you say no? Now stay here and think you have half an hour."

I asked Abu Baker, how did he know the fighters from the civilians. "From their eyes, look at him, the white of his eyes is red, that's because Qaddafi gave them pills to fight us."

The boy's eyes were crimson red, he lay on the floor crying softly.


Posted on 10/31/2011 2:59 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 31 October 2011
Quantum Infinities Spinning on the Head of a Pin

by Mark Goldblatt (November 2011)

If you like intellectual satire, and don’t mind shooting fish in a barrel, the last four decades in the humanities have been a hunter’s paradise. The advent of postmodern gibberish has given rise to a new and exceptionally preposterous species: the bluff academic. Literature professors, art historians and gender scholars now scatter their conference papers with howlingly nonsensical references to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity or Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in order to wow their gullible peers. more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 2:52 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
Uruguay’s Bilingual Heritage and Portuñol

by Norman Berdichevsky (November 2011)

Like Belgium, Uruguay was established as a buffer state between two major nations (Brazil and Argentina), near the strategic mouth of the La Plata River, where the Rio Parana and the Rio Uruguay join. At the beginning of Uruguayan independence in 1828, the country had a scarce population of only 75,000. Only one major city, the capitol, Montevideo existed. The rest of the population was scattered in a northwestern, Portuguese speaking region and Spanish speaking South. more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 2:44 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
After Fifty Years, Atticus Finch Shows Some Wear

by Scott Herring (November 2011)

Would intellectuals ever be apt to think of themselves as bigots? Except for sociopaths, surely the answer is no. The desire to believe oneself virtuous is too strong. Yet we engage in bigotry all the time. I see it regularly, right out in the open, here on my California university campus. The bigotry, of course, is directed at groups that, by unspoken agreement, are fair game—white Southerners, for instance, who have been a source of both fun and fear since before the Civil War.  more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 2:24 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
European Parliament On Christian Communities In Egypt, Syria

European Parliament stands up for Christians in Egypt and Syria


Members of the European Parliament have strongly condemned the killing of peaceful protesters in Egypt and Syria and call on both countries’ authorities to protect Christian communities, in a resolution passed on Thursday 27 October.
A press release said the European Parliament (EP) strongly condemns the killing of protestors in Egypt, and stresses the importance of an independent and transparent investigation. The EP calls on the authorities to ensure that Copts “do not fall victim to violent attacks and can live in peace and freely express their beliefs throughout the country”, the resolution says. MEPs also call for protection of churches, to put an end to their destruction and to continuous aggression by Islamic extremists.
MEPs also expressed their concern about the kidnapping of Coptic girls who have been forced to convert to Islam. They add that Egyptian authorities must end discrimination against Coptic Christians. Parliament considers that the EU should take measures if serious human rights violations occur in Egypt.
They call upon Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to put an end to the emergency law and to military trials of civilians immediately, as it violates the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, MEPs underline.
MEPs are also expressed deep concern about the situation of Christians in Syria. The resolution notes that thousands of Iraqi Christians went to Syria to escape targeted violence in Iraq. Nevertheless, the Christian population in Syria may have dropped from 10% to 8% of the total.
The European Parliament has condemned actions inciting inter-confessional conflict, and urges Syrian authorities to provide reliable and efficient protection for the Christian communities, and expresses support for Christians in the country.
It also condemns the brutal use of force by Syrian authorities against protesters, pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and medical personnel, and reiterates that President Bashar al-Assad and his regime must relinquish power immediately.
MEPs believe that the EU should further encourage and support the emergence of organised Syrian democratic opposition forces both within and outside the country. (ENPI Info Centre)
Posted on 10/31/2011 2:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Monday, 31 October 2011
Crown of Horns: Male Self-Betrayal in Shakespeare

by David P. Gontar (November 2011)

Tell me where is cuckold bred -
Or in the heart, or in the head?
Is it merely fantasy,
Or what we truly want to be?

 I.  The Self-Cuckolding of a Trojan

There are passages in Shakespeare that seem to leap off the page as though composed yesterday. A good example occurs in Troilus and Cressida, where two lovers, about to launch an affair, cynically take the measure of male potency in relation to female desire. The results are revealing, and not particularly reassuring. more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 2:18 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
Wine, Women and Song

by Geoffrey Clarfield (November 2011)

As they approached the city, which filled the strangers with astonishment, “This” said Imlac to the prince, "is the place where travellers and merchants assemble from all the corners of the earth. You will find here men of every character, and every occupation. Commerce here is honorable; I will act as a merchant , and you shall live as strangers who have no other end of travel than curiosity. It will soon be observed that we are rich: our reputation will procure us access to all whom we shall desire to know; you will see all the conditions of humantiy, and enable yourself at leasure to make your choice of life." They now entered the town, stunned by the noise and offended by the crowds...

They Enter Cairo and Find Every Man Happy
-- Rasselas, Samuel Johnson 1759

An unimaginable number of people walk the streets of Cairo. It is as if a river of humanity is in a continuous state of flow. There is never a moment’s stillness.  more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 2:12 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
The Irish on Israel: Why Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore Lambasted the Jewish State

by Robert Harris (November 2011)

For a long time Ireland has had a relatively antagonistic relationship with Israel, which can at times be more keenly felt than diplomatic tensions with many other Western nations. It is not unusual to see articles and letters by Israelis expressing bafflement at this hostility. Most visibly perhaps, the Irish element in the international pro-Palestinian movement, for example in the flotillas to Gaza, is surprisingly large for a nation with a small populace. Last year an Israeli ambassador expressed the view that officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry thought of Ireland as a "lost cause". more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 2:07 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
Warning! The OIC Wants to Silence Free Speech Around the Globe

by Jerry Gordon (November 2011)

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide
by Nina Shea and Paul Marshall
Oxford University Press (2011)

480 pp.


Next to my desk is a framed autographed lithograph of the Muhammad cartoon with a bomb–shaped turban drawn by Kurt Westergaard in 2005 and published along with 11 others in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. It was a gift for an interview I did with the feisty Westergaard when he was in North America in the fall of 2009.  more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 1:53 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
A Severed Wasp: Orwell - Woolf - Kierkegaard

by David Wemyss  (November 2011)

Speech and thought fast as the wind and the moods that give order to a city he has taught himself, and how to flee the arrows of the inhospitable frost under clear skies and the arrows of the storming rain. He has resource for everything. Lacking resource in nothing he strides towards what must come. From Death alone he shall procure no escape, but from baffling diseases he has devised flights. - Sophocles (the "Ode To Man" from Antigone).

George Orwell once wrote about “a rather cruel trick I once played on a wasp. He was sucking jam on my plate, and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed œsophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him”.  more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 1:45 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
Knowledge Without Knowledge

by Theodore Dalrymple (November 2011)

Recently I reviewed a short book by David Horowitz, a man who has changed his political and philosophical outlook somewhat down the years, to put it no stronger. He has mellowed with age, a process that seems perfectly normal, indeed almost biological, until one remembers than not everyone does mellow with age. Some remain mired in the swamp of their youthful convictions.  more>>>

Posted on 10/31/2011 1:35 PM by NER
Monday, 31 October 2011
Mark Steyn On Le Rideau De Mahomet


Posted on 10/31/2011 11:49 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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