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Mon, 13 Feb 2006

War on Iran: the ultimate chutzpah

Sorry for the multiple posts on Iran today, but I keep finding new outrages. The latest is this gem by Richard Perle, the ultimate in chutzpah:

"If you want to try to wait until the very last minute, you'd better be very confident of your intelligence because if you're not, you won't know when the last minute is," Perle told Reuters on the sidelines of an annual security conference in Munich.

"And so, ironically, one of the lessons of the inadequate intelligence of Iraq is you'd better be careful how long you choose to wait."

Shorter Perle: "trust us because we lied to you on Iraq".

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War on Iran: the lies have started


Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein,
then in the process of committing genocide.

Donald Rumsfeld:

"The Iranian regime is today the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," Rumsfeld told an annual security conference in Munich where talk of Iran's nuclear programme was at the top of the agenda.

"The world does not want, and must work together to prevent, a nuclear Iran," he said.

[...]

Rumsfeld said that the world needed to prepare itself for a long fight against Islamic terrorists who he said wanted to set up a global Islamic empire.

"They have designed and distributed a map where national borders are erased and replaced by a global extremist Islamic empire," he said. "As during the Cold War, the struggle ahead promises to be a long war."

Washington and its allies were doing everything possible to ensure that terrorists did not get hold of weapons of mass destruction, which he described as a nightmare scenario.

"The world would change overnight if a handful of terrorists managed to obtain and launch a chemical, biological, or radiological weapon," he said.

Unmentioned in the report is the question why anybody should take anything Rumsfeld says seriously. Note the scaremongering about supposed terrorist goals, as well as the re-appearance of old Iraq war lies about terrorists gaining access to WMD.

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Can't get fooled again?

atomic explosion
If the Bushies get the chance, this would be Teheran.

It looks like the US public can get fooled again:

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (IPS) - The escalating crisis over Iran's nuclear programme appears to have persuaded the U.S. public that Tehran now poses a greater threat to the United States than any other country, or even al Qaeda, according to recent surveys.

And even though the public remains worried and unhappy about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, a significant percentage has already begun thinking of eventual military action against Iran.

"Americans are telling us that they would prefer we pack our bags and leave Iraq now, and yet they appear ready to do some damage to Iran if it proceeds with its nuclear programme," said John Zogby, president of the polling firm, Zogby International, which released a survey last week in which nearly half of the respondents (47 percent) said they favoured military action, preferably along with European allies, to halt Iran's nuclear programme.

[...]

In that respect, the Pew poll results were perhaps the most striking. Over the last 15 years, an average of only about six percent of respondents rated Iran as the "greatest danger" to the United States. In October, the same month that Ahmadinejad threatened Israel for the first time, that grew to nine percent, still far below Iraq (18 percent), China (16 percent), and North Korea (13 percent).

But the latest survey found that the percentage had tripled to 27 percent compared to China (20 percent), Iraq (17 percent), North Korea (11 percent), and al Qaeda/terrorists (four percent).

Moreover, two-thirds of respondents listed Iran's nuclear programme, which U.S. intelligence agencies believe is still a decade away from developing an actual weapon, as a "major threat" -- compared to 60 percent who described North Korea's nuclear programme that way, despite the fact that Pyongyang is believed to have built as many as a dozen bombs. Pew director Andrew Kohout, however, noted that 55 percent of respondents in the October poll said they believed that Iran already possessed nuclear weapons.

It seems the Big Lie is still operative. In general, people do believe what they see on the news and read in the papers. If a lie is repeated enough, treated serious by the newsreaders and opinion makers, it will be believed, even by people who know that they were lied to about Iraq too. This is why it is so important to have a truly independent, objective press and why the Republican movement has put so much energy in controlling the press.

What is to be done?

In my opinion the anti-war movement must keep hammering on two things: 1) Bush lied before and is lying again and 2) Iran is not our enemy; America does not need to be the world's cop. We need to keep saying that there's no reason to attack Iran and not be distracted by all sort of hypothetical scenarios. This is not a time to be "reasonable".

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Sun, 12 Feb 2006

Lazy sunday links

Can't be assed to write something substantial today; been watching the Olympics mostly in between bouts of comedy from BBC7. Besides, I've already done my duty today by writing a review of Who Paid the Piper?, the Frances Stonor Saunders book on how the CIA wage a cultural war in Europe. So today y'all just get a load of links to people who aren't as lazy as me...

Shorter alicublog: I make fun of rightwingers to amuse myself. And why not?

I think she seriously mistakes my mission. I'm not trying to engage, convince, or convert anybody. I figure I'm talking to adults and if they're vacant enough to be swayed politically by a fucking blogger, they're probably not bright enough to get my jokes.

Meanwhile Chris Clarke is making fun of The Lileks, officially voted the Whitest Guy in America three years running. Problem is, it is hard to due it and not look like you're making fun of special needs children:

I am no good with major appliance repair, which makes me a sorry specimen of a man compared to Dear Old Dad. I have some skills. Show me an infinitive, and I can split it. But modern society has divorced me from the tool belt that is my birthright.

Furnace works now, because the guys found and removed an old hunting jacket that for some reason had been wadded up in the cold air return since we bought the place. It looks to be about 60 years old, and so as soon as I get the scanning done you'll have the additions to the Gallery of Hilarious Vintage Clothing Care Instruction Tags you've been clamoring for.

You can read the whole thing, but he overeggs the pudding a bit from there on...

My blogpartner over at Prog Gold has put up an interesting post concerning James Dobson's influence in the UK.

Speaking of the Olympics (and congrats to Shaun White for winning the half pipe snowboarding (he deserved it) and Holland's own Ireen Wust for winning the women 3000 metres speed skating --both 19 year old and winning at their first Olympics; amazing), Left I on the News noticed, like me, that the opening ceremony was a bit of a liberal love fest:

Meanwhile, back at NBC, I got the impression that anchor Brian Williams had been parachuted into town to make sure reasonably progressive host Bob Costas didn't say anything unacceptable. As delegations marched in, Williams didn't miss a chance to remind viewers of which countries were providing troops in the "war on terror," as if that had the slightest relevance to what was going on. When Sarandon appeared on screen, he mentioned that she was an "activist," but curiously omitted her connection to the war as a well-known opponent and someone who has spoken at many antiwar rallies.

Remember those American bloggers coming over to Amsterdam on behalf of our lovely tourist board? Well, keep Saturday the 18th free, as we may have something interesting planned that day, if everything works out. Fingers crossed...

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Sat, 11 Feb 2006

Anti Muhammed cartoons protest in London

There was a big protest in London today, against those Danish Muhammed cartoons. The blogger called "Lenin" was there and wrote an article about his impressions of the demo and why these protests are happening:

The point about the protest that I would like most forcefully to impart to you was that it did not chiefly concern itself simply with caricatures. That was the incident, the moment, which pulled a whole range of issues into focus. Example upon example of anti-Muslim hysteria and racism could be cited, and indeed was cited. Almost all the speakers understood that this was not an isolated issue - rather, it was the straw that broke the camel's back, one too many provocations in a background of increasing anti-Muslim violence across Europe, and aggressive foreign policies against Muslim countries. The other thing is that it showed that the issues around this are not simply being 'manipulated' by a tiny fringe of extremists
[...]
There is widespread anger at the Islamophobia that this incident instantiates: as several people pointed out, a number of these cartoons mimic in their structure and references the antisemitic cartoons that were used in Nazi Germany as a prelude to the judeocide. There is also anger at what is perceived (rightly in my view) to be an attempt to manufacture a 'clash of civilisations', to provoke Muslims and to generate a backlash.

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Fri, 10 Feb 2006

Friday random ten

Special Olympic edition.

Olympic Flag

Le Freak - Chic
Daddy Cool - Boney M
Running up That Hill - Kate Bush
Sweet Dreams are Made of This - Eurythmics
Y.M.C.A. - Village People
Video Killed the Radio Star - Buggles
I Feel Good - James Brown
Thriumphal March from "Aida" - Verdi
Olympic Anthem - Spyros Samaras & Kostis Palamas
Imagine - John Lennon

It is disgraceful how the Democrats not only turned Coretta Scott King's funeral into a political rally, but to do it to the Olympics????

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Thu, 9 Feb 2006

Church of England does the right thing

ruins of a Palestinian house demolished by the Israel army
The sort of work that Caterpillar bulldozers are used for.

The Church of England has voted to disinvest from "companies profiting from the illegal occupation" like Caterpillar Inc. According to the Times:

In a surprise move, the General Synod voted to back a call from the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East for "morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories".

In particular, the Synod backed the Jerusalem church's call for the Church Commissioners to disinvest from "companies profiting from the illegal occupation", such as Caterpillar Inc. Caterpillar, a US company, manufactures bulldozers used in clearance projects in the occupied territories, and also used by Palestinians in their own rebuilding work.

The motion was passed overwhelmingly, in spite of strong lobbying from leading members of Britain's Jewish community, concerned that Israel's right to protect itself from suicide bombers and other Palestinian terror attacks should not be compromised. No time was made to debate an amending motion put forward by Anglicans for Israel, the new and influential pro-Israel lobby group.

Typical of the press reaction to this news, nothing is actually said about the reasons for disinvestment, but plenty of attention is paid to the bogus arguments of professional bigots and alarmists like Anglicans for Israel.

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Wed, 8 Feb 2006

God as substitue for morality

This essay by one Dale Reich (warning: annoying registration needed) is emblemic of a certain type of "Christian", those that have a moral and emotional hole at the core of their being and filled it with God.

A few days ago, I took off my religious beliefs and locked them in a closet.

Then, in a further act of mental gymnastics, I put on the robes of disbelief. I wanted to see how I looked and felt without my lifelong commitment to Christianity.

It was pretty chilling. I didn't like the emptiness, the disconnectedness, the lack of direction and the prospect of it all ending when I die.

It wasn't long before I reached back in that closet. I had gotten religion, so to speak, and I was glad to be back under the umbrella of my faith.

[...]

One of my friends told me the other night that he had stopped to help a stranded motorist.

"Why would you do that?" I asked.

"Because it was the right thing to do. She needed help."

"But," I protested, "that doesn't make any sense. You wasted your time and efforts on a complete stranger, and for what? You got nothing out of it. You should have kept right on driving."

He gave me a puzzled look.

What I meant to say is that God is the basis for good and evil, and once you reject him and his rules, you're left with nothing but self-serving and self-preservation. In short, you're left with being your own god.

See what I mean? Without his faith, he has no direction, no sense of purpose to his life. Without his faith, he has no sense of morality, no sense of right or wrong. He cannot think for himself, cannot handle freedom but needs somebody to tell him what to do with his life. This is not a complete human being, this is a simulacrum, a golem; take the word of God away and his spirit collapses.

But he's not just an incomplete human being, his essay also shows he is not a good Christian: his belief is not a source of strength, but a crutch that kept him from growing, warped his spirit like bonsai growers warp their subjects. I hope this essay was a sign of change, the start of long overdue project of personal growth.

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That Muhammed cartoon controversy in full

A pox on both their houses, I say. Between the smug self-satisfied defenders of free speach who kicked off this whole thing with their racist cartoon imagery (try showing a Jewish figure with a bomb in their yarmulke and see how far you'd get) and the bearded fanatic who had to escalate it by going on a begging tour in the Middle East fundie states, there's little to choose. This whole debacle is the result of conscious decisions by rightwing loonies on all sides to stoke the flames, leaving other voices silenced once again:

Between the Danish government and Islamist politicians, between Jyllands-Posten and the mobs in Beirut, between Laban and Khader, the moderate Muslim has again been effectively silenced. She has been forced to take this side or that; forced to stay home and let others crusade for a cause dear to her - freedom - and a cultural heritage essential to her: Islam. On TV she sees the bearded mobs rampage and the clean-shaven white men preach. In the clash of civilisations that is being rigorously manufactured, she is in between. And she can feel it getting tighter. She can feel the squeeze. But, of course, she cannot shout. She cannot scream. Come to think of it, can she really express herself at all now?

And, as my blogpartner on Prog Gold points out:

The larger lesson is that this manufactured imbroglio is a male construct on both sides, and panders to the male need to posture and strut, hence the need to shut up any woman who dares to point that out, and it's not women's voices we're hearing.

Quite. She also asked why the police did not arrest those protestors in London who incited violence:

At the same time I'm firmly of the opinion that those protestors who are inciting violence, calling for the beheading of newspaper editors or violent jihad against Denmark, should be arrested and charged with public order offences - as certainly should have happened yesterday in London, but didn't. I've been on enough protests to know that the police clamp down on any sign of incipient or threatened violence, even if it's only in their own imaginations (remember May Day?). So why didn't they yesterday? That small number, around 250, protestors were organised extremists who have built this campaign for months, rumoured to be, accordingly to various sources, either Hizb ut Tahrir and/or al-Muhajiroun.

Either the police were scared to make arrests, which is ridiculous ; they were politically pressured not to, which is shameful ( and likely) ; or they missed the tensions building, which is plain incompetent. The signs were there for those with eyes to see : even on the tv reports yesterday you could see the placards had been mass-produced. That demo was planned, as have been the embassy invasions in Damascus and Beirut.

Actually Existing has part of the answer:

In 1983 Jean-Paul Brodeur, a Canadian criminologist, published an essay called "High Policing and Low Policing: Remarks About the Policing of Political Activities". Brodeur defined 'low policing' as the unending and mundane job of maintaining social order and responding to breaches of the criminal law. 'High policing', by contrast, is policing with an agenda and a long-term perspective: the use of police methods and resources to achieve coherent political ends. Such as, for instance, clamping down on political protest.

Low policing says: "I don't care who you are or what you're protesting about, stop that and move along."

High policing says: "You lot can have your fun, we'll reel you in when it suits us."

Certainly the demo in London provided Charles the Safety Elephant with a new excuse to big up his beloved anti-terror laws. Neat how that works. Also nice how we get all these horrible images of dangerous Muslims on our screens again just as the US is gearing up for war against Iran.

Sisyphus Shrugged:

So now embassies are burning and (while mainstream islamic leaders condemn the riots) there is lovely juicy footage of islamic mob violence on every station and in every newspaper just as the effort to escalate against Iran ramps up.

Quel coinkydink.

Yes, this makes for a nice distraction for all sorts of people. Fuinny how the worst protests against these cartoons have been in countries like Syria, Iran and Somalia, all countries in which the governments could use a nice distracting game of "kill the infidel".

Steve Gilliard:

The Syrian government, which can render a man as soon as a plane lands, can't prevent a riot?

I don't think so.

"Lenin" agrees:

Not to go on about the cartoons again, but I think it's just worth mentioning that - of course - the reaction of leaders of Arab states to this event is totally cynical and hypocritical. They, and the more pliable elements of the ulama that they employ (particularly at Al-Azhar) didn't make half as much noise about the invasion of Iraq as it was happening. And it is ironic that this much pressure has been applied, that the Saudi government went so far as to threaten a boycott on Danish dairy produce and yield a threatening reaction from Peter Mandelson, just as the leading Gulf states are totally capitulating to the US/European agenda on Iran.

Another aspect of why these cartoons were repulsive and actively dangerous is again provided by Steve Gilliard:

They knew that this would be seen as an act of extreme provocation, one which could get people killed. Is that right? Or fair? Of course not.

But the world isn't fair.

This is the kind of thing which legitamizes radical clerics and their sense of isolation from wider European society. They can say Europeans not only don't want you in their country, they disrespect the Prophet.

So instead of saying "yes, we knew we would offend muslims and we don't care". they hide behind freedom of speech and act astonished that muslims were deeply offended. They act as if muslims getting offended is their problem, as in "we insulted you, so what?".

Well, you can feel that way, but you better understand there are consequences for your actions. is.

We can start with Danish troops abroad, in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. Their lives just got a whole lot riskier for some shitty cartoons. Then there are the NGO workers. SOL for them as well.

The Islamophobes and racists meanwhile are having a field day. As Gary Younge puts it in the Guardian:

As a result they are vilified twice: once through the cartoon, and again for exercising their democratic right to protest. The inflammatory response to their protest reminds me of the quote from Steve Biko, the South African black nationalist: "Not only are whites kicking us; they are telling us how to react to being kicked."

"Lenin" elaborates:

There is always, at the last scrape of the barrel, the suggestion available that Muslims are merely being manipulated and stirred up by a would-be religious hierarchy, an oppressive caste of clerics and so forth. This unimpressive and child-like perception of the situation, for from positing a postcolonial hybridisation of Islam, involves reducing Muslims to no more than a passive substrate on which Evil Doers can operate. It reminds me of a White Van Man lament on the BBC's late (and much lamented) Kilroy show, in which a complacent lower-middle-class man wondered why in the wake of the Oldham riots, if it was just a few Muslims spoiling it for the rest of them, did we not simply lock up and deport the ones that are riling up all the others. And, of course, it totally neglects (or more accurately represses knowledge of) the fact that we are dealing with 100% proof racism, and the response to it.

It's the microwave theory of political violence, the thought that "Muslim leaders" can turn these riots on and off with the press of a button. In reality of course these things do not happen without genuine feelings of anger and disgust being present. These images were deeply insulting to a lot of Muslims not necessarily even because of the depiction of the Prophet (Islam has a long pictorial tradition as Sandra shows), but because these images showed him as a terrorist, an evil menacing figure representing Islam in a manner evoking old anti-semitic stereotypes. They should never have been published.

Even if this reaction had not takken place, the fact that these cartoons were published in the first place speaks volumes about the place of Muslioms in Denmark. Clearly the newspaper itself, which had earlier rejected similar cartoons about Jesus, did not see Muslims as part if its audience. In general, it looked to me as if Muslims in Denmark are a subject of debate rather than participants, as they have been for the most part here in the Netherlands. These were not cartoons aimed at Muslims themselves or they would've used other imagery; it was aimed at "native" Danes over their heads. In other words, it did not matter that they caused offense amongst Muslims as these were not a legitmate part of the discussion anyway; they could be ignored.

The boycott and subsequent riots, not to mention the attacks on Danish embassies and Norwegian bases proved how wrong, how arrogant that assumption was.

UPDATE: couldn't stop myself from adding the following consideration, from Ken MacLeod:

Is there another hatred that might be called 'the liberalism of fools'? The progressivism of fools? The libertarianism of fools? If anti-semitism is, in an important aspect, a rage against the machine, against progress, is there an opposite rage: a rage against reaction, a fury at the recalcitrance of the concrete and the stubbornness of tradition? A rage against what is sacred and refuses to be profaned, against what is solid and doesn't melt into air, against ways of life that resist commodification, against use-value that refuses to become exchange- value? And might that rage too need a fantasy object?

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Re-engineering Iraq

Via Deltoid this quite interesting account of the problems with re-engineering Iraq's electricity supplies. If anything, this should put the lie to any Pournellesque fantasies about manly men rebuilding society from scratch after the "Big One". Who would've thunk rebuilding even a moderate size country like Iraq could be so difficult?

One tell tale anecdote comes on page three of the article:

There are two distinct accounts of how the LM6000s wound up at Quds. The power-generation engineer no longer in Iraq says that they were purchased partly as a result of a misunderstanding. The buyers had bought them thinking that their dual-fuel classification meant they could be powered by crude oil and natural gas. (In fact, it meant they could be fired by highly pure diesel fuel or natural gas.) When the bids were made, in September of 2003, "no one understood that the LMs can't run off crude," the engineer says.

However, representatives of General Electric Co. and the PCO strongly deny this account. They say that the PCO bought the turbines intending to fuel them with a "distillate" derived from the crude oil pumped at the East Baghdad facility across the street. They were stymied, they say, when it turned out that East Baghdad couldn't pump crude fast enough to give them distillate in sufficient quantities to run the LM6000s.

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