Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 31, 2013

Rabbis: Zionism Is Racism

Recently I wrote:
Zionism is an ideology that is based on racial discrimination. It is thereby, like antisemitism, a form of racism and racism is hardly ever a base of peace.
It seems that a bunch of Zionist rabbis agree with that statement.

Haaretz: Top rabbis move to forbid renting homes to Arabs, say 'racism originated in the Torah'

A number of leading rabbis who signed on to a religious ruling to forbid renting homes to gentiles – a move particularly aimed against Arabs – defended their decision on Tuesday with the declaration that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews.
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"We don't need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel," Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Beit El settlement, said on Tuesday. Aviner explained that he supported the move for two reasons: one, a Jew looking for an apartment should get preference over a gentile; and two, to keep the growing Arab population from settling too deeply. "Racism originated in the Torah," said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. "The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended and that is what the [sage] Rashi interpreted."

A bunch of east Europeans steal Arab land based on old fairytales and pure racism. They even acknowledge it. This should not be supported in any way. Yes, people differ and differing cultures may live in different ways. But racism used as justification for crimes is a crime in itself and should be punished.

These Rabbis are public employees of the state of Israel. Their opinions are official policy. Fortunately history tells us that such fascism seldom survives. Racist people tend to devour their own:
"The neighbors and acquaintances [of a Jew who sells or rents to an Arab] must distance themselves from the Jew, refrain from doing business with him, deny him the right to read from the Torah, and similarly [ostracize] him until he goes back on this harmful deed," the letter reads.

Posted by b on March 31, 2013 at 02:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (91)

March 30, 2013

A "NATO Mandate" For War Would Be Illegal

Daniel Larison quotes from a (paywalled) Wall Street Journal report on the discussions inside the U.S. administration on a more open war on Syria. This point sticks out:
Lawyers at the White House and departments of Defense, State and Justice debated whether the U.S. had a “clear and credible” legal justification under U.S. or international law for intervening militarily. The clearest legal case could be made if the U.S. won a U.N. or NATO mandate for using force. Neither route seemed viable: Russia would veto any Security Council resolution, and NATO wasn’t interested in a new military mission.
There can be no legal NATO mandate for using force. NATO is not an organization that can wage war if some committee decides to do so. Unless a NATO member is illegally attacked NATO has exactly zero legal authority to fight a war. While a case can certainly be made that Turkey is attacking Syria by harboring, training and supplying illegitimate forces that fight the Syrian state, no case can be made that Turkey is attacked by Syria.

Asides from the natural right of self-defense there is only one other source that could legitimize a war. That is, and only under certain circumstances, the UN Security Council.

That U.S. administration lawyers would even consider something like a "NATO mandate" shows that there are still a lot of neoconned minds with a quite false understanding of international law.

Posted by b on March 30, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

March 29, 2013

Whoes "Provocative Action"?

March 29 2013 - Hagel says U.S. has to take North Korean threats seriously
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that North Korea's provocative actions and belligerent tone had "ratcheted up the danger" on the Korean peninsula, ...
March 28 2013 - US sends nuclear-capable B-2 bombers to SKorea
The U.S military says two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers have completed a training mission in South Korea ...
...
The U.S. says the B-2 stealth bombers flew from a U.S. air base and dropped munitions on a South Korean island range before returning home.
March 26 2013 - U.S. Army learns hard lessons in N. Korea-like war game
The Unified Quest war game conducted this year by Army planners posited the collapse of a nuclear-armed, xenophobic, criminal family regime that had lorded over a closed society and inconveniently lost control over its nukes as it fell. Army leaders stayed mum about the model for the game, but all indications — and maps seen during the game at the Army War College — point to North Korea.
March 20 2013 - U.S. flies B-52s over South Korea
The U.S. Air Force is breaking out some of its heaviest hardware to send a message to North Korea.

A Pentagon spokesman said Monday that B-52 bombers are making flights over South Korea as part of military exercises this month.

March 19 2013 - S. Korea, U.S. carry out naval drills with nuclear attack submarine
South Korean and U.S. forces have been carrying out naval drills in seas around the peninsula with a nuclear attack submarine as part of their annual exercise, military sources said Wednesday, in a show of power against North Korea's threat of nuclear attack.

The two-month field training, called Foal Eagle, has been in full swing to test the combat readiness of the allies, amid high tension on the Korean Peninsula in light of a torrent of bellicose rhetoric by North Korea. It kicked off on March 1 and runs through April 30.

March 17 2013 - Troops remember sacrifices of Cheonan sailors
Halfway through the around-the-clock Key Resolve drills Friday, 8th U.S. Army Commander Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson remained full of energy as he underscored that the allied forces were ready to cope with North Korean threats.
...
Despite their hectic schedule, the troops gathered early in the day to pay respects to the 46 deceased crewmembers of South Korean corvette Cheonan, which was sunk by North Korea’s torpedo attack on March 26, 2010.
March 12 2013 - First day of SK-US military exercises passes without provocation
Around 10,000 ROK troops and 3,000 US soldiers, including 2,500 reinforcements from US Pacific command in Hawaii, are taking part in the military exercise, which will continue through Mar. 21. Another 10,000 US soldiers will be deployed by the end of this month for the Foal Eagle exercises. Also flown in to participate in the exercises were B-52 bombers and F-22 stealth fighters, which boast the world’s highest levels of performance. These two kinds of aircraft can maneuver throughout Korean airspace without landing. In addition, the 9750t Aegis destroyers USS Lassen and USS Fitzgerald arrived in South Korea.
March 8 2013 - Air Assault Course increase 2ID capabilities
For the first time in 15 years, 2nd Infantry Division and Eighth U.S. Army soldiers tackled the rigorous Air Assault Course at Camp Hovey, South Korea.

The course, held Feb. 25 to March 3, 2013, at Camp Hovey, began with 312 soldiers ready to compete for the course’s 250 slots. The course qualifies soldiers to conduct air assault and helicopter sling-load operations and proper rappelling and fast-rope techniques.

March 8 2013 - “Frozen Chosen” Marines
Marines from I Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, slog through wind and snow during a joint training exercise with Japanese troops at the Hokkaido-Dai Maneuver Area in northern Japan last week.
...
The Hokkaido training area is located across the Sea of Japan from the Korean Peninsula, where Marines fought an epic winter battle at the Chosin Reservoir in opening year of the Korean War.
March 6 2013 - S. Korea says it will strike against North’s top leadership if provoked
[T]he rhetoric sets up an especially tense period on the Korean Peninsula, with the U.S. and South Korean militaries planning joint training drills that the North considers a “dangerous nuclear war” maneuver, and with the U.N. Security Council deliberating new sanctions to limit Pyongyang’s weapons program.

Posted by b on March 29, 2013 at 12:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

March 27, 2013

The Muddled UN Mali Mission

French and Chadian troops in Mali are mopping up "planet Mars", the desert mountain retreat, of the Jihadis who had taken over north Mali.

But the overall situation is far from resolved. The Mali state is broken with the current unelected government incapable of controlling the country. Three days ago some Jihadi suicide commando attacked in Gao hundreds of miles south of the current French main operation area.

The French claim they want to leave soon and asked for the UN to take over. But the new UN plan just released by the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is seriously muddled and seems to give the French an opening for further unsupervised meddling:

In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Ban recommended that the African force, known as AFISMA, become a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 11,200 troops and 1,440 police - once major combat ends.

To tackle Islamist extremists directly, Ban recommended that a so-called parallel force be created, which would work in close coordination with the U.N. mission.

Diplomats have said France is likely to provide troops for the smaller parallel force, which could be based in Mali or elsewhere in the West Africa region.

These would be two forces on the ground. One under UN command and bound to UN rules for peacekeeping. Another force would be under French command and only bound to self imposed French rules.

That is the same construct that, even after ten years, has shown no progress in Afghanistan. There the ISAF force under NATO command was supposed to be on a stabilization and support mission while a separated U.S. led "Operation Enduring Freedom" force was hunting for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters under its own rules.

Politicians had hoped that the enemy would somehow distinguish between those two forces. That did of course not happen. Both forces were soon seen as aggressive occupiers. When the OEF forces under their loose rules created massacers the blame was put on ISAF. Such constructs of double forces and disunited command never make sense.

So why is the UN coming up with this nonsense? One would probably have to ask the UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (GPKO), Hervé Ladsous. He is the third French in a row to occupy that position and is said to get his orders directly from Paris. The construct he introduces for Mali is the same that led to a mess elsewhere:

The parallel UN and French force proposed for Mali by Ladsous' DPKO is reminiscent of what France obtained in Cote d'Ivoire, with the Force Licorne running -- in short shorts -- alongside the UN Mission which it also through DPKO controlled.

Recently Inner City Press asked Amnesty International's West Africa expert to assess the performance on human rights and accountability in Cote d'Ivoire, for crimes committed by the side the France favored and favors. AI called it appalling.

Why think it would be better in Mali?

Indeed.

Any military in this world can explain that unity of command and common rules of engagement are a precondition for a successful operation. To have two forces under two commands with two set of rules in one area of operations is guaranteed to result in chaos.

And why is a UN force needed at all. Why can't AFISMA, the common African force do the task under African rules and supervison?

Maybe China or Russia can object to the planned lunatic construct. If the French want to continue their colonial ambitions in Africa they should at least be pressed to do so under UN or, even better, African supervision.

 

 

Posted by b on March 27, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Pundits Start To See The Syrian Danger

This is the extraordinary occasion in which I at least partitially agree with "flat word" Thomas Friedman:
We know what kind of Syria we’d like to see emerge, and we have a good idea of the terrible costs of not achieving that and the war continuing. But I don’t see a consensus inside Syria — or even inside the opposition — for the kind of multisectarian, democratic Syria to which we aspire. In this kind of situation, there are three basic options:
  • We and some global coalition can invade Syria, as we did Iraq, sit on the parties and forge the kind of Syria we want. But that hasn’t succeeded in Iraq yet, at huge cost, and there is zero support for that in America. Forget it.
  • We can try to contain the conflict by hardening Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel, wait for the Syrian parties to get exhausted and then try to forge a cease-fire/power-sharing deal.
  • Or we can let the war take its course with the certainty of more terrible killings, the likelihood of its spreading to neighboring states and the possibility of its leading to the fracturing of Syria into Sunni, Alawite and Kurdish mini-states.
I’m dubious that just arming “nice” rebels will produce the Syria we want; it could, though, drag us in in ways we might not want.
While Friedman's diagnosis is right, i.e. if the opposition wins the resulting situation would be catastrophic, his choices leave out the fourth option which I suggested over a year ago:
A Syrian state crumbling under terror followed by large sectarian slaughter and refugee streams with certain spillover of fighting into all neighboring countries. That can not be in anyone's interest.

It is time for the west to not only step back from this cliff but to turn around and to help Assad to fight the terrorists that want to bring down his country.

Some western commentators are slowly, slowly coming around to reach that point. Former Foreign Service Officer Henry Precht is nearly making it:
[T]he end of the track of the Syrian war could be a conflict that will work severe damage for American interests far beyond the Middle East.

We can only hope that Obama and his team will find the vision to foresee the unintended wreck that may lie ahead. To be sure, there will be tough congressional and media criticism and active opposition against any American move to relieve the pressure on Assad and join the Russians in promoting compromise between the two sides. The Administration can argue that the overthrow of Assad will mean al Qaeda rule in Damascus, but many will reject that argument. There are no easy choices: ending Syria’s war will mean applying strong pressure on Saudi Arabia and Turkey to cease and desist. It will be messy, but a negotiated truce will slow down the killing and end the drift towards a major war.

The ultimate stakes for regional stability are too high and the continued suffering of the Syria people too great for America to allow the war to continue and probably escalate. The President will have to show uncustomary political courage. We can only hope he will.

U.S. pressure on Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to stop the weapon and personal flow to Syria would be the first step towards a solution. The alternative is indeed handeling Syria to AlQaida. That is not in anyone's interest. Why is it so difficult for Washington to understand this?

We can certainly hope that this realist viewpoint will gain further ground and that Obama finds some backbone and pushes for a non-military resolution of the conflict. But this hopy changy president has so far shown zero of the needed political courage. The mess is thereby likely to continue until the Friedman's of this world acknowledge the real solution.

Posted by b on March 27, 2013 at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (61)

March 26, 2013

They Plan To Occupy Aleppo

The Syrian army recaptured Baba Amr district in Homs after it had been again infiltrated by insurgents two weeks ago. This seems to again be a significant and symbolic loss for the insurgents. This Syrian army is still holding quite well despite the enormous amount of weapons and foreign personal that is fed to the insurgency.

Yesterday the New York Times had a well researched report on the massive weapon pipeline the CIA has set up to feed the insurgents:

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, who was working on the weapon pipeline from Libya through Turkey to Syria, was killed on September 11 2012. It seems that the Libya pipeline was closed after that incident and a new pipeline opened which hauls weapons from Croatia through Turkey and Jordan to Syria.
It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.
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From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.
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“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” said Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors illicit arms transfers.

“The intensity and frequency of these flights,” he added, are “suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”
...

In Obama's words the organizing of 3,500 tons of weapons is "non-lethal" aid. Adding to the foreign stream of weapons are also hundreds of European fighters and several thousands from other countries involved. Their use of chemical weapons should disqualify them from any support. But the U.S. still continues to favor them.

In Jordan the U.S. is also training "secular" troops that deserted from the Syrian army force. I find it likely that these are supposed to later capture any WMD side should the Syrian government fall. The report includes this quote from a U.S. spokesperson:

"But the bottom line is what we're looking for is unity," Ventrell said. "We continue to support the coalition's vision for a tolerant, inclusive Syria. We want them to continue to work together to implement that vision."
There is no "coalition's vision for a tolerant, inclusive Syria". To assume there is is self defeating. The various exile groups that were assembled were all led or at at least heavily influenced by Muslim Brotherhood. They want a Islamic state in Syria that, by definition, can not be tolerant and/or inclusive. This false view of the Islamic insurgency against the Syrian government is the primary reason why Obama's Syria policy is in shambles.

Moaz Khatib, the U.S. supported opposition leader who resigned after Qatar managed to put up a Muslim Brotherhood guy as exile prime minister, is himself an Islamist. He once led prayers at the Umayyad mosque in Damascus but was soon removed from that office for being too radical.

Khatib, despite having resigned as exile leader, spoke today at the Arab League conference in Doha. He is an effective speaker but comes around (video) as angry. He seemed not to make friends with the assortment of dictators at the Arab League. They listened quite stone faced to his tirade and the applause at the end was very short.

Khatib said that when he talked with Secretary of State Kerry he had requested to move NATO Patriot batteries to cover north Syria. That is not going to happen.

His request though makes sense if this is indeed the plan for the next stage:

A central military objective has been defined: to fully occupy Aleppo as a prelude to proclaiming the new Syrian state in the north.
I do not believe that the insurgency is capable of fully occupying Aleppo. But it seems that some folks in Washington and elsewhere want to give it a try. A new attempt for a political solution is likely only to come after the new attack on Aleppo, like earlier plans to get into Damascus, failed.

Posted by b on March 26, 2013 at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

March 24, 2013

More Disarray In The Syrian Opposition

Moaz Khatib, who was installed by Hillary Clinton to head the Syrian opposition, just resigned. In his resigning statement he explained:
[T]there is a bitter reality [to] tame the Syrian people and besiege their revolution and attempting to control it.
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Those who are willing to obey [outside powers] will be supported, those who disobey will offered nothing but hunger and siege. We will not beg for help from anyone.

If there is a decision to execute us as Syrians, then let’s die as we want.
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Our message to everyone is that Syrians decisions will be taken by Syrians, and Syrians only.

I had promised our people, and vowed to God on that, to resign if the situation reaches certain red lines. Today, I honour my promise and I resign from the National Coalition to be able to work with freedom not available through official institutions.
...

Khatib is clearly pissed that Qatar installed the U.S. citizen and Muslim Brotherhood favorite Ghassan Hitto as prime minister of a Syrian exile government.

While Khatib had offered talks with the Syrian government Hitto has rejected them.

There is more disarray. As predicted the so called Free Syrian Army has also rejected the premiership of Hitto saying that his nomination was not consensus based. Meanwhile Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon vetoed Qatar's attempt to give the Syrian seat in the Arab League to the exile government.

Qatar's plans to install the Muslim Brotherhood as the new authority in Syria are clearly not welcome.

Secretary of State Kerry is on a visit in Iraq where he rather comically "warned" Prime Minister Maliki to stop flights from Iran over Iraq to Syria. Maliki will of course not do so.

Kerry also said that U.S. lawmakers and the American people are watching what Iraq is doing and "wondering how it is a partner."
Maliki, and likely all Iraqis, will show Kerry the finger over such statements.

What is Kerry threatening to do? Invade Iraq again? Arrange for a coup by some Sunni strongman? Hold back weapon sales to Iraq so Moscow can make the big deals with an again rich Iraq?

Kerry clearly has no leverage over Iraq. Maliki will of cause help Syria wherever he can. It is necessary for his own survival. Is Kerry too stupid to see that?

Posted by b on March 24, 2013 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (71)

March 23, 2013

The Turkish Kurd Ceasefire

The Turkish president Erdogan made a deal with the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan. The first part of the deal is a ceasefire that will stop attacks by the PKK on Turkish state security entities and vice versa. The PKK will pull out its fighters from Turkey and move them into north Iraq. The Turkish army will not interfere with this retreat.

The second part of the deal is political and will be enshrined in a new constitution. Erdogan promises some political autonomy for Kurdish parts of the country instead of today's much centralized state. The mayors the Kurds elect in their cities will in future be able to act on their own and without interference from today's centrally appointed governors. As their part of the deal the Kurds will support Erdogan's dream of changing Turkey in a presidential republic with himself taking the then much more powerful presidency.

As previous negotiations with other political parties have shown,  Erdogan would not be able to change the constitution to fit his personal plans without the votes of the Kurd and their Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

This plan may work but there are significant potential spoliers. When a letter from Abdullah Öcalan announcing the ceasefire was read to a million Kurds who came together in Diyarbarkir there was not one Turkish flag visible but thousands of Kurdish flags.

To the Turkish nationalist this proves their suspicion that the Kurds plan to split from Turkey and, together with north Iraq and parts of Syria, form their own state. They will do their best to sabotage any autonomy deal.

For some of the Kurdish nationalist the steps envisioned in todays plan are no enough. They do not want autonomous mayors but their own state and they want it now. It is quite possible that parts of the PKK and other groups they will not follow Öcalan ceasefire order and continue their terror campaign.

Nationalist on both sides have proven their ability to spoil any deal. Both sides are capable of attacks on the other side but both may also use false flag attacks to spoil the ceasefire and renew clashes. Two earlier attempts of ceasefires did not work out.

When Kemal Attatürk formed the modern Turkish state out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire he disenfranchised two social groups because he believed they would endanger the secular and united state he attempted to create. Those two groups were the Islamists and the Kurds. With the recent developments in Turkey Attatürk's fears might now come true.

Posted by b on March 23, 2013 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

March 22, 2013

The Pathetic Media - Part CXXIV

An African journalist interviewing the President of the United States and then writing about "President Obama Barack Hussein" would be laughed out of town by the Washington media establishment.

"How can such an unintelligent amateur attempt to write about the United States?" "Don't they have editors in their pathetic media?"

But when the Washington Post's Craig Whitlock writes about a new imperial drone base in Niger details like the Niger presidents name do not matter at all (screenshot):

Government officials in Niger, a former French colony, were slightly more forthcoming. President Issoufou Mahamadou said his government invited Washington to send surveillance drones because he was worried that the country might not be able to defend its borders from Islamist fighters based in Mali, Libya or Nigeria.

“We welcome the drones,” Mahamadou said in an interview at the presidential palace in Niamey.

For the record. The name of Niger's president is Mahamadou Issoufou with Mahamadou being his first name and Issoufou his family name.

That "Whitlock Craig" conflates the name of Niger's president, even after interviewing the man, is just a symptom of the rather provincial reporting the Washington media do with regards to Africa and foreign countries in general. According to the report the bribed president and his justice minister say that U.S. drones are very welcome in Niger. Yeah, sure. Why bother then to ask real people.

Anyone interested in the mood of other countries, especially with regard to U.S. involvement in their affairs, should look for other sources than those pathetic colonial court writers who dominate U.S. mainstream media.

Posted by b on March 22, 2013 at 05:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

March 20, 2013

Another Syrian Chalabi

Parts of the Syrian exile opposition installed a new leader. That must be the tenth by now. It is again a Muslim Brotherhood guy, but this time one who has not lived in Syria for over 30 years. But that will not matter. His American and Qatari handlers will certainly tell him "what the Syrians want".

As is usual after any repetition of this act parts of the coalition immediately dissented and left:

At least 12 key members of Syria's National Coalition said Wednesday they had suspended their membership in the main opposition body amid a row over the deeply divisive election of the first rebel prime minister.

The group of 12 included the Coalition's deputy Soheir Atassi and spokesman Walid al-Bunni.

These futile attempts to create another Ahmed Chalabi group aren't even funny anymore. It is obvious that the fighters on the ground are to various degrees extreme Islamists who do not and never will care what those exiles say or do.

From my realist point of view I still do not understand this. Why is the U.S. supporting these schemes? Why is the U.S. so much interested in creating a Sharia law state in Syria? Did it, like the Russians seem to believe, really went insane?

Posted by b on March 20, 2013 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (80)

March 19, 2013

War On Iraq - 10 Years On

Ten years ago I watched on TV how the first bombs exploded in Baghdad. The fireballs were bigger than I had expected. "What are they dropping there?" I asked. "And why?" asked my then girlfriend. "Oil," I replied.

It was obvious that Iraq had neither any weapons of mass destruction nor any connection to terrorism. There was no doubt about that. Every piece of false evidence that had been put out by the U.S. government had been debunked. Everyone with a bit of interest and a bit of time could have known that. Knight Ridder's Washington Bureau (today McClatchy) journalists Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay had writen piece after piece about that, as had several blogs and alternative media, Billmon's Whiskey Bar being on of them. Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradai and their experts on the ground said there were no WMD in Iraq.

The Bush government was a government of oil executives. When they came to power they were determined to get their hands on Iraq's resources. 9/11 only made it easier for them but they would have made the same flimsy case against Iraq even without that event. Greed for Iraq's oil was their motivation.

There is no excuse for anyone who publicly made the case for the war on Iraq. There is no excuse for anyone who wrote, edited or published WMD bullshit. Everyone who did so has lost all credibility.

The best case one can make for those people is that they could have known but were too lazy to learn the facts. In the worst cases they knew they were lying but fully intended to commit the crime. In most cases the propagandists just willingly drunk the Kool-Aid (recommanded reading!). They do so again and again.

The war on Iraq is still ongoing. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are still financing and supporting the Sunni insurgents against the Iraqi government. Today more than a dozen car bombs exploded in Baghdad killing at least 60 people and wounding many more. It will take another ten years and more fighting before Iraq will find some state of peace.

The same people who pressed for the Iraq war are now pressing for war on Syria and for war on Iran. It is important to fight them and to debunk their lies again and again. It is the most important reason to keep this blog going.

Posted by b on March 19, 2013 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (70)

March 17, 2013

NYT Publishes "Pro-Palestinian Manifesto"

Shortly before Obama's visit to Israel the normally very pro-Zionist New York Times publishes a long-read piece describing the life of Palestinians who try to peacefully resist the Israeli occupation. The headline is Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?. Haaretz calls the piece a "pro-Palestinian manifesto". Well, any realistic and factual description of Israel's occupation is indeed a "pro-Palestinian manifesto". What else does Haaretz think could it be?

The author of the piece is Ben Ehrenreich, who earlier pointed out that Zionism is the problem that rejects peace with the Arabs. Zionismus is an ideology that is based on racial discrimination. It is thereby, like antisemitism, a form of racism and racism is hardly ever a base of peace.

This week's Economist also takes a longer look at the Palestinian-Israeli situation and finds a bleak future for the "Jewish state".

I do not agree with the conclusions of either piece but recommend to read both.

Are these pieces part of a concerted Obama campaign to push for some change of opinion, if not in Israel then at least in the Anglo-sphere?

Posted by b on March 17, 2013 at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

March 16, 2013

Cluster Bomb Propaganda

The Associate Press propagandizes: Syrian regime expands use of widely banned cluster bombs against civilians, rights group says. As we will see that claim the cluster bombs are "widely banned" is simply wrong.

The "rights group" claiming Syrian government use of such bombs is Human Rights Watch which has a rather dubious record of correctly identifying cluster bombs and their origin. It seems that HRW claims of such identification always finds that the side ideological opposed to U.S. mainstream is guilty of such use. The Syrian government denies that its uses cluster ammunition.

The AP piece asserts:

Cluster bombs open in flight, scattering smaller bomblets. They pose a threat to civilians long afterwards since many don’t explode immediately. Most countries have banned their use.
This is simply wrong. Out of 193 UN member states only 78 countries, mostly European and African ones, have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Missing are many of the big ones including the United States, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Syria and others. Most countries have NOT banned the use of cluster munitions and especially most military strong countries have not and have no intention to do so.

That AP is wrongly asserting otherwise is likely intended to hype Human Rights Watch dubious claims against the Syrian government.

Posted by b on March 16, 2013 at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

March 15, 2013

Open Thread 2013-05

News & views ...

Posted by b on March 15, 2013 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (56)

March 14, 2013

Those Reuters Sources

In an Exclusive Reuters reports of regular weapon transfer from iran to Syria: Iran steps up weapons lifeline to Assad

How does Reuters know this you might ask. Here are its sources:

... Western diplomats said ... Western officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Iraqi and Turkish officials denied the allegations. ... the envoys said ... envoys say ... A Western intelligence report seen by Reuters in September said ... Iraq denied that report ... diplomats say ... a senior Western diplomat said this week ... the senior diplomat said ... He added ... Ali al-Moussawi, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's media adviser, strongly denied the allegations ... diplomats said ... The diplomats cited by Reuters made clear ... They also said ... intelligence report .. seen by Reuters in September ... One Western diplomat cited intelligence reports ... said the Western intelligence report ... the report said ... the report said ... Other Western officials confirmed ... the source told Reuters ... Western diplomats say ...
All allegations in the report come from anonymous western sources. It must have been a lot of work to stenograph than many dictations. Five journalist and editor and "others" worked on that report.

I once thought that journalism takes more than just writing down what anonymous government sources say. Alas. I was wrong.

Posted by b on March 14, 2013 at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

March 13, 2013

Pope Francis

Some thoughts:
  • an old man his turn is unlikely to be long
  • from Latin America, giving that huge part of the church a bigger voice
  • a conservative, which is within the catholic church rather middle of the road, but with a social mind
  • strongly against liberal hype stuff like homosexual marriage
  • the name he chose has real meaning for catholic folks and can be understood as a promise of a less pompous church
Altogether a relative good choice in my view though not the tall black African woman I would have liked. Maybe next time?

Posted by b on March 13, 2013 at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (70)

Why Do They Report "Offense" As "Defense"?

How can any journalist or even any conscience writer mix up the "defense" "offense" vocabulary like in this piece?

Pentagon creating teams to launch cyberattacks as threat grows

The Pentagon’s Cyber Command will create 13 offensive teams by the fall of 2015 to help defend the nation against major computer attacks from abroad, Gen. Keith Alexander testified to Congress on Tuesday, a rare acknowledgment of the military’s ability to use cyberweapons.
"Offensive teams" are obviously created to attack a foes computersystems, not to "defend" ones own. To "defend" ones computersystems requires no offensive capability. It only requires to close off ones networks and to carefully scrutinize the hard- and software one is using. Then there is the attribution problem. In today's internet it is nearly impossible to find the source of a competent attack if the attacker is willing to hide its identity. Any "offensive team" is thereby by definition not to "defend" but, as its name says, to attack. Why is the reporter trying to obfuscate that?

And the writing gets even worse:

Alexander said the 13 teams would defend against destructive attacks. “I would like to be clear that this team . . . is an offensive team,” he said.
How can the reporter summarize what the General says as to "defend against attacks" when the General is quoted saying the very opposite in the very next sentence? Have the writer and the readers internalized newspeak so much that the glaring contradiction in that paragraph is acceptable as "truth"?
Twenty-seven other teams would support commands such as the Pacific Command and the Central Command as they plan offensive cyber capabilities.
General Alexander is clearly emphasizing the unilateral offensive side of his plans. But the reporter still subsumes it all under "defense". What kind of cool-aid do they serve in Washington to lower cerebral capabilities to such a level?

Posted by b on March 13, 2013 at 03:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

March 11, 2013

Rejecting Karzai's Order Killed Eight People

Mid February the Afghan president Karzai ordered that U.S. special operation forces leave Wardak province. These special operation forces were training some gangs of bandits which ended up threatening and killing the civilian population:
In a statement Sunday, a spokesman for Karzai said, "after a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special force stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people."
The U.S. ignored the demand. The U.S. military also rejected the demand to finally hand over control of the Bagram prison to Afghan police and justice.

These are the reasons why Karzai yesterday said that the U.S. has in effect a common goal with the Taliban, creating instability to justify a prolonged stay.

Today two U.S. special operation soldiers, three Afghan policeman and three women were killed when an Afghan policeman opened fire on a meeting. Dozens were wounded:

The shooting, at a joint military base in Wardak Province, happened shortly after a security meeting between the police and American and Afghan forces, the officials said.
Had the U.S. military followed Karzai's order and closed shop in Wardak eight people who are now dead would still be alive.

Posted by b on March 11, 2013 at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Syria: The Battle Is Still In Balance

The Islamist Syrian insurgent group that had kidnapped some Philippine UN peacekeepers and is also responsible for murdering a number of captured Syrian army soldiers has evidently received modern weapons through the U.S. led additional arming of the insurgency.

That such a group received such weaponry is proof that the plan to deliver weapons only to non-radical groups is not working at all. The myriad of militant groups and criminal gangs fighting in Syria are only gradually distinguishable in their sectarian mindset.

A large amount of weapons reached the insurgents through 75 planeloads from Croatia. These were delivered through Jordan and Turkey where British, French and U.S. forces train more insurgents. The British government, in breaking the EU embargo on weapons delivery to any side in Syria, has reportedly delivered another batch of weapons from its own stock.

The exiled political opposition has postponed a meeting it had planned to from an exile government. The attempts to install some pliant secular technocrat as the front man was sabotaged by the Muslim Brotherhood members of the opposition.

Last week the Jihadists of Jabath al-Nusra overran the eastern city of Raqqa where they are now killing government functionaries. Yesterday the insurgents attempted to reconquer Baba Amr in Homs. That offense seem to have failed. Overall the military conflict still seems to be in balance with little movement at the various fronts.

Posted by b on March 11, 2013 at 08:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

March 10, 2013

Predictions Of A Changing China Fail

On February 12 the NYT claimed that North Korea's Nuclear Test Poses Big Challenge to China’s New Leader. It set off with a false choice:
The nuclear test by North Korea on Tuesday, in defiance of warnings by China, leaves the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, with a choice: Does he upset North Korea just a bit by agreeing to stepped up United Nations sanctions, or does he rattle the regime by pulling the plug on infusions of Chinese oil and investments that keep North Korea afloat?
I rejected the speculations in that piece and explained that while China might join some mild UN sanctions, as it later did, it has no interest in really pressing North Korea:
China needs North Korea as a buffer against U.S. troops at its borders. It will not do anything to ruin North Korea as a chaotic and dissolving neighbor would be a huge security problem for Beijing.

As nothing in those circumstances changed, I reasoned, China's policy on North Korea would not change.

Now China is saying exactly that:

China’s foreign minister said Saturday that Beijing would not abandon North Korea, reiterating China’s longstanding position that dialogue, not sanctions, is the best way to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons.

At a news conference during the National People’s Congress, the foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, suggested that Chinese support for tougher United Nations sanctions against North Korea should not be interpreted as a basic change in China’s attitude.

China has always seen North Korea as a buffer zone and it will continue to do so as long as needed. Besides that it also likes the coal and iron ore it imports from North Korea at favorable prices. Even if North Korea again starts some clashes with South Korea, as it seems likely to do soon, China will not overtly interfere unless North Korea's existence in endangered.

The permanent speculation of a "western" turn of China's policies is nonsense. China has its own interests, often divert from "western" ones, and China is capable of pursuing its interests with its own policies.

Posted by b on March 10, 2013 at 02:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

How The NYT Frames The Kenyan Election

Jeffrey Gettleman writes for the NYT as east Africa correspondent. His piece on the Kenyan election, Kenyatta Is Declared the Victor in Kenya, but Opponent Plans to Appeal, is a master example for obfuscating and tenuous writing. It starts:
Kenya’s election commission on Saturday declared Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president and one of the prime suspects in a case involving crimes against humanity, to be the winner of the country’s presidential race amid growing allegations of vote fraud and a refusal by the other leading contender to concede.

The tricks Gettleman uses to make the Kenyatta win look bad are these:

  •  let the outcome of the election look close
  •  throw doubts onto the vote counting
  •  let the accusations against Kenyatta seem reasonable

To let the outcome look close Gettleman never actually mentions the percentage of votes the "western" candidate, Raila Odinga, received. Kenyatta received 50.07% but Odinga received only 43.31% of the votes. That is a quite big margin. But as Gettleman does not tell his readers that Odinga lost by 6.7%.   Instead he uses these retorical devices to let race look close:

Mr. Kenyatta [...] avoided a runoff by the thinnest of margins, about 8,000 votes out of 12 million, or .07 percent.
...
[i]t was not completely clear what the will of the people really was. The second-place finisher, Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister, has refused to admit defeat and plans to appeal to Kenya’s Supreme Court to overturn the results, which some independent observers said were sloppy and suspicious. Mr. Odinga said there had been “rampant illegality” and “massive tampering” with the vote-tallying process, the same problem that bedeviled Kenya’s last election in 2007. Mr. Odinga narrowly lost that race and after he protested, Kenya exploded in political violence.
...
This election was always expected to be close.

Reading that a casual reader would assume that the margin of votes was somewhat tight and that there are reasonable doubt about the outcome. That is not the case. If Kenyattas 6.7% advance was fraudulant the fraud must have been massive and quite obvious.

Then there are Gettleman's anonymous "some independent observers" who seem to make some case though we never learn which one. But the Independent Kenyan Election Observation Group (ELOG), which had over 7000 observers at the polls and did a Parallel Vote Tabulation, says that the officials results are very much within the margins of their count:

IEBC’s official results are consistent with ELOG’s PVT projections. ELOG wishes to note and to remind all Kenyans that it is the IEBC which is constitutionally mandated to declare and announce the final, official results of the elections. Based on the PVT, ELOG has verified that the IEBC results fall within our projected range for all the eight presidential candidates.
The EU Election Observation Mission to Kenya had (pdf) some minor technical issues with the election but saw no signs of fraud. No other source than Gettleman's mysterious "independent observers" has reported doubts. The Soros Open Society funded Africa Election Project reported:
the elections were peaceful, free and fair, winning praise from international observers despite widespread fears of a repeat of violence
Voice of America noted:
international observers have said the vote was largely transparent and credible
The Washington Post reported:
International elections observers have declared the election transparent
Reuters wrote:
International observers broadly said the vote and count had been transparent so far and the electoral commission, which replaced a discredited body, said it delivered a credible vote.

None of Gettleman's colleagues seem to have found those "some international observers" who doubt the election outcome.

"This election was always expected to be close." writes Gettleman. In January the Odinga coalition was slightly in the lead. But a TV debate on February 14 was won by Kenyatta and a poll a week later found him to be in the lead. The trend in February was clearly in Kenyatta's favor. Then followed not so veiled “choices have consequences” threats from the U.S. and UK should Kenyans elect Kenyatta. Protest votes against such outer interference explains the rather large win Kenyatta made.

The case before the International Criminal Court, which Gettleman emphasizes is rather flimsy. After the 2007 election, which Odinga probably also lost, Odinga followers went on killing spree against the Kenyatta side supporters. Those supporters then retaliated which resulted in more killing. The ICC accusations were brought up against leaders on both sides as "indirect co-perpetrators" of the clashing. The case was brought against the will of the Kenyan national assembly and the Kenyan government. The only reason the ICC kangaroo court trumped up the charges is pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom. Both want to keep Odinga as a puppet instead of having to wrangle with a more resisting Kenyatta.

Gettleman's task is obviously to support a drive to reinstall Odinga despite his large and obvious loss in the election. While readers from the U.S. might fall for his propaganda, I am confident that the people of Kenya will not.

Posted by b on March 10, 2013 at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

March 09, 2013

Kenyatta Wins Kenya's Election

The election commission of Kenya declared Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the presidential election. He won 50.17% of the valid votes thereby avoiding a run off election. Voter turnout was a high 86%.

The Kenyan people have elected Kenyatta despite threats from the U.K and the US that to do so "would have consequences". Kenyatta, as well as his vice president William Rutu, is accused by the International Criminal Court of instigating violence after the last presidential election. The proof for that accusation seems rather flimsy.

The candidate favored by the "west", Raila Odinga, won 43.3% of the vote but has not yet conceded his loss.

Under these circumstance Uhuru Kenyatta is unlikely to look favorable towards further international interference in Kenya's and Africa's affairs.

The "western" media had been waiting for rioting or other violence to occur like it did during the 2007 election after Odinga claimed vote fraud. Kenyans were quite aware of this and offer their apologies for disappointing these expectations:

[M]y apologies on behalf of all my fellow ‘natives’. We, Kenyans have disappointed you greatly. It is completely unfair for media houses of great esteem, such as you are, to spend all the money to send their reporters to come and report on the post-election violence in Kenya – only for them to return home empty handed! As ‘natives’, we may not know exactly know how that feels but we have learnt to identify with the afflictions of many! May you find it in your hearts to forgive us for maintaining peace as we chose who among all our ‘corrupt African’ leaders would ascend to the various positions of power. However, this mistake was a deliberate one, the kind that we intend to repeat over and over again.
....
Good luck to Uhuru Kenyatta and all Kenyan people.

Update: The U.S. State Department congratulates the Kenyan people for the successful and quiet election. But it doesn't congratulate the man who won the election. It does not even mention him. Given such snide, how much longer will Kenya keep its soldiers in Somalia where it is a proxy force for the U.S.?

Posted by b on March 9, 2013 at 08:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

March 08, 2013

Egypt: Increasing Instability

Egypt is going further down the drain or, speaking less metaphorically, is slowly sliding towards a civil war.

There have been clashes in Port Said and other northern cities since January but last week they again escalated. These are industrial cities with lots of union workers but also many unemployed. Over the last days several protesters and policemen have been killed. For tomorrow the final verdict about an earlier deadly stadium riot in Port Said is expected. Should the judges find the accused Port Said fans again guilty the riots will further escalate.

The police is confused and demotivated:

'We're confused about who we are now,' one officer says. Does Morsi 'want the police to fight thugs and criminals, or crush the street protests against him?'
All over the country parts of the the police stopped policing and went into a strike. Large parts of the Central Security Forces (CSF), which has many draftees, also went on strike. Their main demands are for the interior minister to step down and for heavier weapons. In response the interior minister fired the chief of the CSF.

In Port Said the military took over some security functions. But protests continued today.

In Cairo the chefs and staff of the Intercontinental Hotel were (as a somewhat amusing video shows) having a street battle with kids/hooligans/thugs/protesters who had tried to rush the hotel.

In the South some "former" Islamic militants have taken on "police duty" and patrol the streets. In Cairo the police withdrew from guarding the Muslim Brotherhood bureau.

The Egyptian state seems to lose its means of control.

Adding to that is (another) constitutional crisis about a new election law for the earlier dismissed parliament. The legal question is one of which was first, the hen or the egg:

Article 177 mandates that the president or the parliament send electoral laws to the court to determine constitutional fitness prior to their promulgation. The SCC’s rulings on such matters are binding. Further, Article 177 makes clear that the SCC cannot entertain post-electoral challenges to the constitutionality of electoral laws.

The Shoura Council, which is serving as the interim legislative authority until a new parliament is seated, referred the draft parliamentary electoral law to the SCC for prior review. The court found several provisions of the draft law to be unconstitutional; in response, the Council amended the draft and passed the law with no further judicial review.

But the Council did not change all the parts the Supreme Court had rejected. Another court picked up on that and referred the new law again to the SCC. In consequence the new parliamentarian elections, planned for April, will likely have to be moved out several month.

The new election law is indeed unfair. While there was earlier a rule that a party had to have a certain threshold of votes in the whole country, that rule has now moved to the local district and the threshold has been set much too high. A district might have some ten parliament seats. For a party to win one of these seats it would not only have to win the direct local seat but it would also have to win one third of the total votes in the whole district. Had such a rule been in place before the last election only Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist candidates would have won seats and many local seats would have been left empty. There would have been no opposition and no minority representation at all.

Such an election law might fit the monopolization-of-power plans of the Muslim Brotherhood but it has little to do with fair democratic rules.

Meanwhile Egypt's currency reserve are going further down and a new IMF loan will not come unless Morsi introduces some harsh economic measures like lowering fuel subsidies. Morsi planned to avoid these measures before a new election round but may now run out of time.

A constitutional crisis, Morsi's lack of control over the security forces, continued protests and thuggery, economic troubles and armed militia in the streets. What is next?

Posted by b on March 8, 2013 at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Another Korea War?

After the UN slapped some new sanctions on North Korea for its third nuclear test, North Korea has nullified the armistice with the UN forces starting Monday March 11.

Today the official paper Rodong Sinmun carries some 15 pieces about war.  The main editorial: We'll Be Victors in the Fight to Defend National Sovereignty

If the enemy comes at us with a dagger we’ll draw out a big sword to slice him in pieces, if he comes with a rifle we'll turn a big gun to blow him off, and he threatens with nuke, we’ll face up to him with more powerful and accurate nuke strike means of our own -- that will be the mode of counter attack of Mt. Paektu type. The statement declared that the KPA Supreme Command would totally nullify the Korean Armistice Agreement and stop all activities of the Panmunjom Mission of the KPA.

The statement also demonstrated the heroic spirit of Songun Korea pressing forward to a bright future with the might of its people's single-minded unity.

Local headlines: U.S. And Puppet Warmongers Are Destined to Meet Final Ruin, In Concerted Efforts, All People Ready for Decisive Battle, With Power of Single Hearted Unity

Inter-Korean headlines: U.S., South Korea Start Joint Military Exercises, Is It "Defensive"?, Converted Version of "Preemptive Strike"

There is no doubt that North Korea is preparing for a bit of war. It has to raise its deterrence especially against a naval blockade. An over-interpretation of the latest sanctions could lead to such a move.

Starting Monday the U.S. and other countries will also be, in a legal sense, again at war with North Korea. Something will then happen that lets this war go from cold to hot. Such something does not have to come from North Korean. There are enough South Korean hawks who would like a limited or even a bigger clash to occur.

The U.S. and South Korea should stand down and call off their current maneuvers. If only, should the war go hot, to make sure that it is clear which side is the aggressor. Unfortunately the new South Korean president, the daughter of South Korea's former dictator, is likely too hawkish to do so.

For now I do expect some limited clashes. Likely at sea or on one of the disputed islands. But I do not see anyone interested in a longer war. The tricky issue for all sides will be to avoid incidents that could get out of control. One wrongly submitted command or one out of control local commander can screw up the intended limits of the clashes and ruin the day for millions of people.

One might hope that the Chinese keep some influence over North Korea. But as China joined in the new sanction round its influence of happens next is limited.

The new sanctions, useless as they are, will cost a certain price. Let us that it will not be too high.

Posted by b on March 8, 2013 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

March 07, 2013

Arabs Join Iran In Fight For "Inalienable Rights"

Iran's Khamenei does not yet trust the "west" on the nuclear negotiations:
"Western nations did not accomplish anything that can be construed as a concession, and instead they admitted Iran's rights only to a degree," Khamenei said in an address reported on his official website.

"To assess their integrity, we must wait until the next round of talks," he added.

For Iran it is all about the right to nuclear research and production which is an "inalienable right" under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty but which the "west" wants to unilaterally restrict without renegotiating the treaty.

Khamenei's quest for Iran's right now gets support from a rather unsuspected direction. The states at the other side of the Persian Gulf also need nuclear energy to provide for their growing populations. The UAE and Jordan want to build nuclear reactors in their countries and are cooperating. The UAE has money from oil and gas while Jordan has little money and no oil and gas but has nuclear engineers and some other valuable stuff: Uranium. Jordan naturally wants to use and enrich its Uranium to feed its reactors and to pay back for the loans the UAE will put forward. The U.S. wants to block that. Here is Jordan's reaction:

Amman has declined to sign an accord with Washington that, like a similar document agreed between the UAE and the United States, would commit it to not enriching uranium as part of its nuclear plan.

Toukan said while Amman had signed international commitments on nuclear nonproliferation, it would not ink a bilateral deal with the United States on enrichment.

“We can’t accept this,” [Khaled] Toukan[, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission,] said. “We will not agree to sign any agreement that infringes on our sovereign rights or our international rights under any treaties.”

Jordan has the same stand on their rights under the NPT that Iran has. The UAE, if it wants its loans paid back by Jordan, will likely have to support that right. The Saudis want to build 16 nuclear reactors. Probably not coincidentally that is the breakeven number where fuel production by local enrichment is cheaper than buying fuel from the U.S., European, Russian oligopoly. The U.S. will try to divert the Saudis from enrichment, but while it has the ability to apply pressure against Jordan it has less so with the Saudis.

The situation now coming into view is the Arab Gulf countries haggling with the U.S. over their right to enrich just as Iran has been doing for the last decade. That is a great chance for an alliance against the U.S. plans of changing the rules under the NPT.

The U.S. "concerns" about enrichment are anyway not so much about nuclear proliferation. Plutonium, not Uranium, is the way to go for a bomb. But the U.S. has commercial reasons to keep the technology under its control. Reactors and their fuel are expensive stuff which is what the U.S. wants to sell:

Washington also wants the accord because it would open up opportunities for U.S. companies, which Jordan would otherwise be forbidden from hiring.
Iran would be well advised to talk to the Arab countries about their enrichment plans. It has the technology and know how to help them along their way. Cooperation on their nuclear development would help with otherwise sometimes frosty relations and would be good business for both sides. The issue of "inalienable rights" to nuclear technology and its use is a good starting point for such talks.

Posted by b on March 7, 2013 at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

March 06, 2013

Chavez

Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, is dead. There will be many false and hateful obits on him. Here is a decent one. Chavez did a lot of good for his people and he had planned to do more of it.

Elected with quite large majorities he was smeared as an anti-semite and dictator by the same media that lauded the U.S. sponsored military coup against him.

The U.S. will try to use the election for a successor to install a pliable neo-liberal figure. There is hope that the people of Venezuela will not fall for that but will elect someone who can continue the process to more social justice that Chavez initiated.

Posted by b on March 6, 2013 at 01:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (109)

March 05, 2013

ISAF: No Statistics No Lies

Last year ISAF regularly reported a decrease of "enemy initiated attacks" (EIA) in Afghanistan:
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has said attacks by anti-government armed groups against foreign forces declined by 17 percent in the first seven months of the current year, as compared to the same period in 2011.
This January ISAF claimed that EIA in 2012 were down 7% compared with 2011. But in February the ISAF press releases hailing this "progress" somehow vanished from its webpage. Someone noticed that and AP asked ISAF what had happened to those reports:
The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan incorrectly reported a decline in Taliban attacks last year, and officials said Tuesday that there was actually no change in the number of attacks on international troops from 2011 to 2012.
...
A coalition spokesman, Jamie Graybeal, attributed the miscounting to clerical errors and said the problem does not change officials' basic assessment of the war.
A "clerical error" is what one usually calls a lie. "But as ISAF practically says: "7% more or less killed and wounded - why care for that anyway?"

It was a big cake in the face moment for ISAF and as such numbers work against the now enshrined cut and run policies that require some triumphant victory declarations ISAF decided that the public is no longer interested in such numbers:

The U.S.-led military command in Afghanistan said Tuesday it will no longer publish figures on Taliban attacks, a week after acknowledging that its report of a 7 percent decline in attacks last year was actually no decline at all.
ISAF's silly excuse is that Afghan troops are now the ones who mostly get attacked. It seems to believe that this is something no one should count or be concerned about.
"Additionally, we have come to realize that a simple tally of (attacks) is not the most complete measure of the campaign's progress," Graybeal said. "At a time when more than 80 percent of the (attacks) are happening in areas where less than 20 percent of Afghans live, this single facet of the campaign is not particularly accurate in describing the complete effect of the insurgency's violence on the people of Afghanistan."
If that is the case why then was ISAF so happy to report such numbers as successes in every month of 2012?

The way out of "lies, damned lies, and statistics" is obviously not to publish any statistics at all.

Meanwhile the way out of Afghanistan seems to be in transferring the war to the United States. With Homeland Security now serving warrants (video) with Mine Resistant Armor Protected Vehicle filled with its special ops like "operators" it is only a question of time until some insurgent will considers measures against such.

Posted by b on March 5, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

March 04, 2013

David Sanger Is Now A Cyberexpert

Three NYT authors, including Judith Sanger, wrote on of the much an vogue cyberscare story. It is based on the usual scare-quotes from people, like the former secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff, who profit from the scheme. Those people are, of course, not identified as such.

But what would any story written by Sanger be without another scary-Iran element. Here we have this:

While the skills of Iran’s newly created “cybercorps” are in doubt, Iranian hackers gained some respect in the technology community when they brought down 30,000 computers belonging to Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, last August, replacing their contents with an image of a burning American flag.
Now that is a bit interesting because, so far, no one else has attributing that event to Iran. Maybe Sanger and his co-authors should call the Saudis and let them know who attacked them. Neither they nor U.S. intelligence officials do know who its was:
Saudi Arabia blamed unidentified people based outside the kingdom for a cyberattack against state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. that aimed at disrupting production from the world’s largest exporter of crude.
...
Major General Mansour Al-Turki, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, declined to identify any of the “several foreign countries” from which the attack originated because the investigation is still in progress. “The attack failed to reach its ultimate goal, which was to stop the flow of Saudi oil,” he said at the conference.
...
Two U.S. intelligence officials said in interviews that the evidence implicating Iran in the Aramco attack is largely circumstantial, ...

Now Sanger is obviously THE expert in cyber-attacks. He knows all the systems involved, has debugged them personally and easily indentify who wrote the code for the attack and who used it. He and only has the knowledge to attribute an unattributable attack to Iran.

Not!

Posted by b on March 4, 2013 at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

March 03, 2013

Is Ideology Irreversible?

The Sunday Times had an interview with the Syrian President Assad. A full transcript liberated from the paywall is available here.

The whole interview, in which Assad is unlike his opponents again very rational and logical, is recommended reading. I found one passage especially interesting:

Sunday Times: How threatening is Al-Qaeda now?

President Assad: Threatening by ideology more than the killing. The killing is dangerous, of course, but what is irreversible is the ideology; that is dangerous and we have been warning of this for many years even before the conflict; we have been dealing with these ideologies since the late seventies. We were the first in the region to deal with such terrorists who have been assuming the mantle of Islam.

Is that highlighted part correct? Is an ideology, once it has taken ground in some people, really irreversible?

Assad seems to be somewhat wrong with that. I am not aware of many communists these days, indeed I wish there would be more. So communism faded over time as did several other ideologies. But the Jihadi ideology (we need a better word for this) seems to be still on the rise, supported by the Gulf monarchies and used as a proxy force by the "west". That is what makes it dangerous. Its inherent growth momentum would probably be nil without such support.

Posted by b on March 3, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

March 02, 2013

Culture And The Choice Of A Government Systems

The Wilsonians and their neoconservative brethren presume that all humans want "freedom", "democracy" and "choice". It is their mission, they say, to "spread" those over the world. Their conviction is related to the "all men are created equal" myth that was, by hypocritical slave owners, enshrined in the declaration of independence.

The modern equality view was formed at the time of the first nukes, the first computers and game theory when, as Adam Curtis explains in The Trap, all science strove to be like physics with a sound theoretical base and deterministic laws that could be identified and then used to make predictions and to create policies.

In economics the "all man are equal" view was the believe in a homo economicus as the rational actor in all things economics and thereby in a world full of similar rational, self-interested, labor-averse individuals. But man are not rational actors and economic preferences are driven by many other factors than just greed and labor avoidance. This base onto which much of the economic science was build on was shattered by studies in behavioral economics and the finding that man make weird choices and are not even able to rationally evaluate the risk of their choices.

But while behavioral economics may describe human economic decision making better than the rational actor theories it still sees man as somewhat universal in their behavior. But this, like the homo economicus, is a wrong assumption.

Man may be equal with regards to a few universal rights but they are not equal in their social and cultural upbringing. That has, as new anthropological research finds, much more influence on them as is usually assumed:

Economists and psychologists, for their part, did an end run around the issue with the convenient assumption that their job was to study the human mind stripped of culture. The human brain is genetically comparable around the globe, it was agreed, so human hardwiring for much behavior, perception, and cognition should be similarly universal. No need, in that case, to look beyond the convenient population of undergraduates for test subjects. A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners—with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.
Psychological experiments, when repeated in various societies and cultures, find large sociological differences in behavior, perception and cognition. Those are not hardwired but are part and product of the specific culture we experience in our upbringing and in which we are living:
The growing body of cross-cultural research that the three researchers were compiling suggested that the mind’s capacity to mold itself to cultural and environmental settings was far greater than had been assumed. The most interesting thing about cultures may not be in the observable things they do—the rituals, eating preferences, codes of behavior, and the like—but in the way they mold our most fundamental conscious and unconscious thinking and perception.
The assumption of rationality of man in economic studies has proven to be wrong. But to replace that with behavioral economics is only a small step. The psychology research underlying behavioral economics and other theories assumes, physics like, a hardwired human brain that does not exists. The results of psychological experiments done in the U.S. are not universal results but specific to the U.S. culture. They already differ quite a lot within that culture.

One can thereby not derive policies and preferences for other societies from one's own. Understanding of what is a good or bad decision, what is a god or bad form of government, of dignity and values, widely differs between cultures and societies. Individualism may be valued in the "west" but other societies find it abhorrent.

This explains why not all people want to be, as Wilsonians and neoconservatives assume, like "us", but may make very different choices with regard to their lives and their societies. "Democracy", "freedom" and "choice" may be alien concepts to them that do not fit what they perceive as their social values. If we consider that people have a right to chose their system of government we also have to allow authoritarianism or religion based systems as a possible culture based outcome. Democracy crusaders, who want to remake other societies in the image of their own, can not admit that because they still hold to their physics like understanding of societies and minds.

Posted by b on March 2, 2013 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

 
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