Friday, February 25, 2005

Old Europe & Old Love

International relations are like ex-girlfriends: if you're still deluding yourself you can get her back, every encounter will perforce be fraught and turbulent; once you realise that's never gonna happen, you can meet for a quick decaf latte every six – make that 10 – months and do the whole hey-isn't-it-terrific-the-way-we're-able-to-be-such-great-friends routine because you couldn't care less. You can even make a few pleasant noises about her new romance (the so-called European Constitution) secure in the knowledge he's a total loser.

Mark Steyn

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Conspiracy Theory: The 2004 Elections

Sharon on France

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told television talk-show host and comedian Eli Yatzpan that France favored the Arab states, and criticized its refusal to condemn Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

"First of all, the French are pro-Arab," Sharon told Yatzpan yesterday in an interview conducted while strolling around Sharon's ranch.

"One of the strangest things is that France is not prepared in any way to define Hezbollah as a terror group, though it is one of the most dangerous ones in existence," he said, referring to the Lebanon-based group.


"The Berlin Wall Has Fallen"

The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation... Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative. He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Washington Post

Second Thoughts: Bush in Germany

When the voter turnout in Iraq recently exceeded that of many Western nations, the chorus of critique from Iraq alarmists was, at least for a couple of days, quieted. Just as quiet as the chorus of Germany experts on the night of Nov. 9, 1989 when the Wall fell.

Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was then.

Der Spiegel

Hat Tip: Chrenkoff

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Good News from Gaza

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia does not intend to present a new cabinet for parliamentary approval on Wednesday or Thursday, sources close to Qureia said on Wednesday.

In such a case, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas may decide as early as Thursday to entrust the task of forming a new government on a new candidate for the premier post.

"There is an internal plot in the [Palestinian ruling party] Fatah to hamper any cabinet presented he will present, and therefore he does not intend to do so," the sources close to Qureia said.

Although this may add to instability, the net effect of replacing Abu Alla with a non "old guard" member is likely to be a move in the right direction. The new government of Abu Mazen is future focused with some good technocrats on board (and the wild & powerful Dahlan). Remember, Arafat chose Abu Alla as his candidate of choice when he overthrew Abu Mazen (hence the name of an Abu Alla support base: "the Loyal Sons of Yassar Arafat"). If you are after a candidate who wants progression, here's a tip: don't back the guy Arafat backed.

Palestinian legislature continues to withhold confirmation from PM Qureia’s cabinet even after he scrapped first lineup and promised professionals, except for two ministers, instead of corruption-tainted veterans.

Main opposition comes from Qureia-Abbas’ own Fatah majority. DEBKAfile reports PA Chairman Abbas is manipulating Fatah to sustain crisis and humiliate Qureia until he quits. PM expected to resign if no majority Thursday.

See also debka's report about Dahlan's assassins - "Dahlan’s Death Squads Bring a Bit of Iraq to Gaza Strip". I still think overall this guy is a good influence in Gaza - despite his shortcomings - which doesn't say much about the Gaza leadership slate.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tony & Son

An Australian reunion with a twist

Health Minister Tony Abbott
Abbott says he want to make a fresh start with his new-found son
An Australian minister who was reunited with the son he placed for adoption 27 years ago found out they had been working in the same building.

Health Minister Tony Abbott said he was "flabbergasted" when he was contacted by Daniel O'Connor, the boy he and his teenage girlfriend last saw in 1977.

Both men realised they had been working close by in parliament where Mr O'Connor is a sound technician.

"I think it is a wonderful story," said Prime Minister John Howard.

Mr Abbott told reporters about his Christmas reunion with the son he had last held as a five-day-old baby.

BBC News (For more of the story, click on the link)

A nice, heartwarming story! And for those who will no doubt try and portray Mr Abbott as hypocritical due to his conservative stance on abortion, the opposite is true. Adoption,
in many cases, is a viable alternative to abortion. And unlike abortion, and adoption results in all parties benefiting (even 27 years later...) including the biological parents, the step parents and most of all - the child. The latter point is emphasised by Daniel's first words to his biological father: "Thank you for having me".

An Ode to Chrenkoff

Arthur Chrenkoff has outdone himself with this great interview with author and scholar Michael Ledeen in Blog interview titled "Never, never, ever give in to tyranny"

Also, check out his killer (excuse the pun) news roundup from Lebanon.

An Enemy Called...

Linda Heard is a British editor, journalist and columnist currently based in Cairo where she is a correspondent for the English-language Saudi daily The Arab News...

Linda’s road has often been a lonely one since she refuses to align herself with any political system, party, activist group, or campaigning society. Without the constraints of ‘belonging’ and having to toe an official line, she strives to be an objective observer of the international political arena [Neo: Thesis].

...“When I hear the hauntingly beautiful call of the muezzin, I know I’m home,” she is known to say. [Neo: Anti-thesis]

Due to decades of witnessing so many good things about Arab culture - hospitality, compassion, charity and respect for family values - Linda feels that the Arabs, and even Islam, are currently being maligned by leaders of Western powers to suit their own power-led agendas. [Neo: Syn-thesis?!]

An Enemy Called Apathy

Palestine is occupied. Iraq is occupied. Afghanistan, the Middle East, Gulf and the Caspian are seething with US military personnel, pilots, submarines, Apache gun-ships, fighter jets and spy drones. Iran and Syria are being threatened [Neo: Oh No!!! Heaven forbid!]. And yet, it is absolutely imperative that Syria quits Lebanon tout suite, or so goes the White House line.

Naturally, the vast majority of the Lebanese want a complete Syrian withdrawal in the same way that Palestinians want to reclaim their land and Iraqis want the invaders out (except those in government suffering from severely twisted arms [Neo: by the hands of the terrorists or the Americans?!]). What human being on earth wants foreigners dictating their “do’s and don’ts” or telling them how their country should be run?

But there is a fundamental difference between the Syrian “occupation” and the others previously mentioned. The Syrians were invited into Lebanon in 1976 when the country’s civil war was at its bloodiest to bring stability [Neo's Newsflash: The Israelis were also invited to protect the Christians and were greeted with rice and flowers in 1982]. Over time, this it helped to achieve [Neo: would you also credit Israel with that?! Would you also credit the USSR for promoting global stability through MAD - technically true but odd...].

Furthermore, the Syrians have long said they have a plan for a staged withdrawal [Neo: staged over another 31 years, no doubt], which is more than one can say for the Americans in Iraq. Indeed, its troop levels are already substantially down.

...Put simply, the Syrians have overstayed their welcome, although given that Lebanon doesn’t possess an army to speak of, it has always maintained it would leave when the Israelis quit Lebanese land (there is still the Shiba Farms issue outstanding) and the Palestinians received their much-coveted state [Neo: Hold on a sec, the problem with Israel giving back Shiba Farms to Lebanon is that Syria is the country that is laying claim to the small land area. Further, the UN confirmed it was never part of Lebanese territory and as such concluded that Israel withdrew in full. So, no issues are outstanding! And as for the "much-coveted" Palestinian state - what does that have to do with Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Are they holding a fellow Arab country at ransom for the sake of a third Arab national group]. At the same time, Syria has long been attempting to hold peace negotiations with Israel, which still occupies its strategic Golan Heights, but has been constantly rebuffed [Neo: For two important reasons: 1) Sharon is not going to offer Assad a breather when the pressure cooker is on 2) Barak's attempts proved that Israel cannot negotiate on two fronts at the same time for internal reasons].

In addition, Syria was a main player in the “war on terror” during the months following the Sept. 11 attacks in the US [Neo: Interesting hypothesis] when both No. 10 and Buckingham Palace received Bashar and his wife as honored guests. What has changed?

...Then along came the tragic assassination of Lebanon’s former and widely beloved Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut’s downtown, which he so lovingly restored. Who did it?

“Syria,” said the US in nonverbal terms by withdrawing their ambassador and demanding the immediate Syrian pull out of Lebanon. No proof, nothing.

In the same way that individuals have been branded as terrorist supporters and bundled off in chains to Guantanamo, Bagram or Abu Ghraib, so Syria has been effectively labeled Hariri’s killer [Neo: I can't pin point why, but this victim story isn't working for me. Maybe if I see Assad sexually humiliated...].

For its part, Syria maintains Hariri was a friend [Neo: That's news to us all including Hariri and Syria itself] and has pointed out that it wouldn’t be in its interests to have him killed, especially in the light of so many international knives out for its blood. What could Syria possibly have to gain? We shouldn’t forget, too, that Bashar is highly educated and intelligent, not someone who would be stupid enough to believe Syria could get away with such an outrageous act [Neo: So, unlike the past half a dozen political assassinations committed by Syria, they now have a dentist at the realm who wouldn't dare do anything but remove Hariri's plaque].

Unfortunately, those Lebanese, who have united against Syria following Hariri’s demise, have fallen right into the trap.

Once again, Syria is not the aggressor here... [Neo: "Once again", let's ignore its acts of aggression of 1948, 1967, 1973, 1974, 1982, 2003, etc.] It is time for the Lebanese to decide where they stand during these threatening times. Their choices are thus. They can go shoulder to shoulder with their Syrian cousins, or trust the Americans and the Israelis to secure their safety and future prosperity?... [Neo: I think Lebanon is making its choice loud and clear. Long live the Cedar Revolution!]

Arab News

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bush's Doublespeak

Our greatest opportunity and immediate goal is peace in the Middle East. After many false starts and dashed hopes and stolen lives, a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is now within reach.

America and Europe have made a moral commitment: We will not stand by as another generation in the Holy Land grows up in an atmosphere of violence and hopelessness.

America and Europe also share a strategic interest. By helping to build a lasting peace, we will remove an unsettled grievance that is used to stir hatred and violence across the Middle East.

Our efforts are guided by a clear vision: We're determined to see two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The Palestinian people deserve a government that is representative, honest and peaceful. The people of Israel need an end to terror and a reliable, steadfast partner for peace. And the world must not rest until there is a just and lasting resolution to this conflict.

All the parties have responsibilities to meet.

Arab states must end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, stop their support for extremist education, and establish normal relations with Israel.

Palestinian leaders must confront and dismantle terrorist groups, fight corruption, encourage free enterprise, and rest true authority with the people. Only a democracy can serve the hopes of Palestinians and make Israel secure and raise the flag of a free Palestine.

A successful Palestinian democracy should be Israel's top goal as well. So Israel must freeze settlement activity, help Palestinians build a thriving economy, and ensure that a new Palestinian state is truly viable, with contiguous territory on the West Bank.

A state of scattered territories will not work.

The Guardian - Transcript of Bush Remarks in Belgium

In his effort to appease European nations who were not there when he needed them most, President George Bush laid on the line his closest ally - the State of Israel. Until now, Bush has always referred to Israel's obligation to allow for "contiguous" (as oppose to "continuous") territory to make up the West Bank component of the new Palestinian state. He has now gone a step further and hinted that he has blurred the line between contiguous and continuous and requires the territories not to be scattered. This wording posses serious problems for the State of Israel and allows for a fet a compli declaration of borders resembling the pre 1967 borders.

The reference seems to indicate that Barak's Camp David proposal is no longer good enough in the eyes of the US administration. This gives in to the European position that despite the fact that the territory covered 90 odd percent (it varies somewhat by method of calculation) of land and included 98% of West Bank Palestinians, it was not attractive as it was quartered (allowing for potential road blocks in the event of a terror attack).

It is vital for Israel's sake and for the sake of peace seeking nations around the world that the Palestinian position after resorting to 4 years of violence is somewhat worse than the position they could have had if not for their choice to walk out at Camp David. Otherwise, there is no potential territorial loss from leaving the negotiation table and trying to force a better hand through terrorism. This is the same reason why Israel must not return to the pre-1967 borders - the instigators of a war must know that the downside of defeat is real and permanent.

Bush seeks to get out of Iraq and has made the strategic decision that the Europeans can be of use to him at this stage. As he is requesting European help with Iraq and a consolidated position on nuclear states, they hold the chips in the bargaining process, and he has offered them the only chip he can still play with - Israel's future.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The new "Intifada"

The Lebanese opposition has declared an "intifada" against the current Lebanese regime and Syria following last week's assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The opposition in Lebanon is demanding a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. The opposition, declaring its "intifada of independence" on Friday, said it was directed against the Lebanese and Syrian governments, in response to their "crimes." It announced it would not participate in parliamentary elections, slated for May, as long as Syria's occupation of Lebanon continues. Opposition leaders met Friday at Beirut's Bristol Hotel, where they decided not to resign, so as not to forsake the political arena to Syrian loyalists.


If this Intifada eventuates, it would be the fifth uprising the Middle East has experienced in recent history and forebodes severe blood loss. The others include the Shia uprising against Saddam in the early 90's, both Palestinian uprisings of the late 80's and the current/recent one; and the 2003 Kurdish uprising against Syria.

It seems that many within and out of Lebanon consider the Hariri's death to be attributable to Syrian intelligence agents. This brings me to the Al Jazeera poll which offered the following choices for the culprits: a) Israeli agents b) American agents c) Syrian rebels d) Lebanese rebels e) others. Considering that rebels of the Labanese puppet government alse rebels against Syria and are likely to hold similar ideals of democracy advocated by Israel as a regional model and the USA as a global model, the choice is as genuine as the choice in the following statement: you are to a) yourself b) your mother's child c) your child's parent d) your siblings' sibling.

And yes, it seems that Al Jazeera has added this one to the list of acts that Israel has shot itself in the foot just so that it looks like an Arab is holding the smoking gun - September 11th; Tsunami; Hariri; etc.

And this from a publication with volatile reliability (although they are sometimes very right):

Monday, February 21, presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac meet in Paris. With Lebanon at the forefront of their agenda, they will have to look hard at some tough questions. How to handle the situation if Assad orders his Syrian troops in Lebanon to march on Beirut in defense of his puppet government? And worse still, what if the full weight of the Syrian army is sent across the border to squash the uprising? Will the two Western leaders dispatch a joint US-French force to repulse the Syrian onslaught?

If they did, it would be the most drastic event to hit the Middle East since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. The second American invasion of an Arab land might this time be partnered or endorsed by a European power.

To force the hands of the American and French presidents, the leaders of the Lebanese uprising are preparing a spectacular event to coincide with their summit. One proposal is for a hundreds of thousands of protesters to march through Beirut’s streets and seize the parliament building.

Other “intifada” events in the planning:

  1. Giant rallies to strangle normal life in the capital.
  2. A human chain from Hariri’s tomb to government headquarters on the seam-line dividing the Hizballah-dominated southern district from the Christian-controlled West that would aim to paralyze government activity.
  3. Opposition leaders have notified Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, head of the Shiite Amal, that the only session they will allow to be held is an open debate on the murder of the former prime minister that produces the formation of a state inquiry commission. This commission’s mandatory guideline must be to call General Rostum Ghazallah as its first witness.
  4. The mobilization of Lebanese expatriate communities in the United States and Europe for synchronized street rallies to generate broad international popular sympathy on the same lines as Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.
  5. Armenian Christians in Lebanon and Western countries will be asked to join the struggle.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Disengagement Plan wins 59:40

Ariel Sharon & Shimon Peres voting for the disengagement plan

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Unholy Trinity

An unholy trinity (sorry, "axis of evil" has been used already) is being fostered between Iran, Syria and the Hizbollah. Although they were always loosely affiliated via Hizbollah, it seems like Iran and Syria wish to embolden their direct ties to counterweight US pressure. It seems both nations fear the second Bush term.

The timing is particularly interesting considering the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Hariri in Beirut yesterday, the worsening of US-Syrian relations and the Iranian nuclear showdown.
Iran and Syria say they are to form a common front to face challenges and threats from overseas.

"We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats," Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said after meeting Syrian PM Naji al-Otari.

Both countries are under intense US pressure, with Washington accusing Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons.


UPDATE: Al Hariti's Assassination

Hizbollah suspected in killing

ISRAELI Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom indicated today that his government believed the Syrian-backed Hizbollah militia may have been involved in former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's killing. "We do not have a definite guess" as to who was behind the explosion
that killed Hariri in Beirut on Monday, Mr Shalom told reporters during a visit to London.

"We know that there are many powers that are the enemies of the efforts to develop democratic institutions or democratic systems in Lebanon," Mr Shalom said.

"Democracy is good for the Lebanese. I'm not so sure it is good for the Syrians. But to tell you now that specifically that the (Syrian-backed) Hezbollah were behind it, I cannot tell you now," Mr Shalom said.

The Australian

Funeral of Rafiq Hariri - Beirut 16.02.05

It seems that some kudos is due to Kirk Sowell (see previous post) for predicting Hizbollah's involvement and for forecasting an outcry - although it is still shy of a revolution.

In another Middle Eastern report, they mentioned this interesting fact: Hariri's vehicle had advanced technology preventing it to be rigged with explosives (a common assassination tactic). If a suicide bomber is not found to have been present, then it would suggest the use of advanced explosives - with the finger pointing to a sophiticated regime or a backed terror organisation rather than the unknown group who claimed responsibility. It will be interesting to see what the final findings are (if they are not tainted)

Funeral of Rafiq Hariri - Beirut 16.02.05

Al Hariri's Assassination

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri has been assassinated by a suicide bomber. A Shia terrorist group calling itself “Victory and Jihad” has taken credit, and the Lebanese opposition is blaming Syria, of whom Hariri was a critic... Al-Jazeera showed a video of the terrorist organization taking credit for the assassination. The man, identified by Al-Hayat as Ahmad Abu Ads, a Palestinian, read from a written statement, stating that Hariri's killing was necessary to rid "Bilad al-Sham" - Greater Syria - of "unbelievers."

Kirh Sowell's Arab World Analysis

Kirk Sowell goes on further to suggest that this group may not be an external international terrorist as has been suggested by Lebanon but rather a branch of the Hizbollah. His analysis makes some sense considering Al Hariri's anti-Syrian stance - which is one of two Hizbollah sponsors - as well as the statements made against Saudi Arabia, a theological competitor to the Shiite Hizbollah. Hizbollah is the only major pro-Syrian Shiite terror organisation. The US took the opinion that Syria had a hand in this (which does not necessarily contradict the aforementioned thesis) and recalled its ambassador from Syria (NY Post's US YANKS ENVOY OVER LEB SLAY is unmatched in eloquence) while France is calling for an international inquiry on the matter. In fact, this seems to mark the first occsaion in recent history that the US and France see eye to eye on a major geopolitical event (See The Seatle Post on this).

Lebanon has a long history of political assassination and Syria seems to have a hand in most of them, including President-elect Bashir Gemayel in September 1982 which in turn sparks the Sabra & Shatila massacre by Christian Fallanja loyal to Gemayel, leading to a longer than anticipated Israeli entanglement in Lebanon and the escalation of a fierce civil war.

It would be interesting to learn what the modus operandi for the latest attack was. Early reports suggested a car bomb and this seems consistent with the level of damage caused. However, the latest reports from Lebanon suggest this is the act of a suicide bomber. As car bombs were typical of Syrian assassination while suicide bombings are a modus operandi that is atypical of Syria or even Hizbollah (which at one point condemned suicide bombings as un-Islamic), the distinction between the two methods has significant repercussions on the "who done it" analysis.

Al Hariri assasination bombing - Beirut 14.02.05

Hundreds of thousands of mourners swarmed the streets of Beirut in a sea of Lebanese flags, chanting slogans against Syria, as the funeral cortege made its way to Mr Hariri's final resting place at a mosque in the centre of the capital.

The murder of Mr Hariri, a billionaire businessman and five-time prime minister who resigned over the dominant role Damascus played in his country, stoked fears across the globe of a return to the dark days of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Mr Hariri was killed on Monday with 14 other people, including seven of his bodyguards, when a huge explosion ripped through his motorcade in Beirut, leaving a trail of carnage and destruction not seen in the capital since the war.

"Beirut weeps for its martyr. Beirut salutes Rafiq Hariri," said of the many banners hung in streets in the capital along with black flags and posters of the man regarded as the father of the country post-war reconstruction.

Sowell suggests that this public dissent of Syria might spark the "Orange revolution" of Lebanon. I am not so optimistic, but my fingers are crossed (or tied up in a convoluted multi-ethnic sign - for the politically correct amongst us). Whatever happens, Syria is definitely caught between a rock and a hard place.

The UN's "Oil for Spoils" Program

In the second hearing by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) on the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program, Chairman Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) said new evidence suggests Benon Sevan, former Executive Director of the U.N. Office of the Iraq Program, personally received oil allocations worth $1.2 million and called for the United Nations to waive Sevan’s diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution immediately. The Oil-for-Food program (OFF) was instigated in 1996 to provide food, medicine and humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people through the controlled sale of Iraqi oil, but ultimately generated an estimated $21.3 billion in illegal revenue for Saddam Hussein through smuggling, kickbacks, and other schemes in contravention of U.N. sanctions regimes.

...“The gross mismanagement of almost every aspect of the Oil-for-Food program is simply inexcusable and wasted over $690 million,” Coleman said. “Every organization has its shortcomings, but I cannot recall any organization where the scope of its problems encompassed every basic management skill needed to ensure an effective program. American taxpayers pay close to 22 percent of the U.N.’s operating costs. They need assurances that their tax dollars are well spent, especially in light of the fact that sanctions will likely be imposed upon rogue nations in the future.”

Senator Norm Coleman Website

This goes to the heart of the case for invading Iraq. The status quo that existed at the time was just not a viable alternative. I have heard many criticisms of the war for Iraq, and many have their merits, but I have yet to hear a viable alternative to the confrontation.
  • Lifting the sanction would have set a destructive precedent and as such was not an option;
  • Keeping the sanctions in full would have killed many more Iraqis. Even if you accept Iraqi statistics, over 10 times more people died as a result of sanctions (which no longer exist) than did in the war and its aftermath; And
  • The Oil for Food program put the oil in the wrong hands and the food in the wrong mouths.
War was the only choice. It was the option with the lowest human-cost.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dreading Democracy

GM at Big Pharaos laments the lack of coverage of the Iraqi election in the Egyptian government controlled daily Al Ahram
When it turned out that the streets of Baghdad were not filled with blood, when it turned out that the only stain on that day was on the voters’ fingers (and it was purple and not red), my dear newspaper threw Iraq’s landmark elections to the bottom of its page. What a shame.

Why are they afraid of Iraq’s elections? Are they afraid to show that America’s plan might look as if it is working? Are they afraid lest people recognize that they were ranting on the wrong side ever since Saddam’s statue fell? Or are they afraid to show that yesterday’s winners did not win by 99.99999%?

It would seem that Arab dictatorships are very converned about Iraq's democratic triumph inspiring repeats in the rest of the Arab world in much the same way as Belarus is concerned about the spillover effect from Kiev (For more on this, read ZUBR). Freedom is infectious!

One correction though - Saddam Hussein did not get 99% of the vote. In fact the figure was 104%

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentines Day Special: Iran does not love Israel

Iran won't recognise Israel: spokesman
05:50 AEDT Mon Feb 14 2005

AP - An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said it won't recognise Israel and it's not ready to compromise on its position.

Iran and Israel have been bitter enemies for years - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called Israel a "cancerous tumour" that must be wiped out from the Middle East - but European leaders have recently suggested to Iran that it recognise Israel.

"No. We don't recognise Israel ... and we are not ready to compromise over this with any country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, has repeatedly said the destruction of Israel is the only way to solve the problems of the Middle East.

But other Iranian officials have signalled a softer tone, calling for a free, democratic referendum to decide the fate of the conflict.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said recently that American differences with Iran go well beyond its nuclear program, saying it was "really hard to find common ground with a government that thinks Israel should be extinguished".


Iraqi democracy wins!

13 February 2005 -- Iraq's Independent Election Commission today announced the final results of the 30 January general election, the first free poll in the country in five decades.

The main Shi'ite list won a victory, taking about 48 percent of the votes cast, according to the official figures. The United Iraqi Alliance took over 4 million of the 8.55 million votes cast.

A Kurdish alliance was second with 2.17 million votes, while third place went to interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's list with
about 1.16 million.

The commission said 58 percent of the country's registered voters cast ballots.

Commission member Farid Ayar told reporters, "Today marks the birth of a new Iraq and a free people."

Radio Free Iraq
See also Iraq Votes 2005

UPDATE 2: Mithal Al-Alousi

January 28, 2005
Profile of an Iraqi Politician

By James J. Na

"I would like to thank the United States for liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein's terror," said the quiet man on the podium. There was a momentary, almost stunned silence, which was quickly followed by a raucous cheer from the audience. The place was Herzliya, Israel -- yes, Israel -- and the speaker was Mithal al-Alusi, then the director general of the Supreme National Commission for De-Baathification in Iraq.

Last September, I attended a conference on counter-terrorism in Herzliya, which drew security experts, military and law enforcement officers, policymakers and researchers from around the world. Al-Alusi's participation -- in an event taking place in Israel -- was not much heralded before the conference. He seemingly slipped into the proceedings, made a plainspoken declaration devoid of any bluster and then discussed the prospect of stability in Iraq.

Al-Alusi's words and action were both daring and significant. Here was an official from the "new" Iraq who publicly thanked the United States for liberation and dared to visit Israel openly. I excitedly called my wife back in the United States, hoping that she caught press coverage of this development.

There was not much coverage in the Western media. In fact, I had to do some digging to find an odd article or two about it later.

My wife's reaction at the time, characteristic of her practicality, was "Does he have any family?"

Indeed, as the news reached Iraq, al-Alusi's family had to flee from home under terrorist death threats. He was expelled from his political party (he had been a spokesman for Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress at one time) and was stripped of his government position and security protection, ostensibly for violating Iraq's old Baathist injunction against visiting Israel. An arrest warrant soon followed. He was quietly told to leave the country or face being jailed together with Baathist murderers, meaning a certain death.

Al-Alusi was previously exiled for 27 years for working against Saddam's tyranny, so he was not about to leave the country again precisely when it finally had a chance for freedom. He returned to Iraq, vowing not to be cowed by terrorists. Eventually, the Iraqi interim government realized the ridiculousness of the charge and quietly dropped the indictment. Still al-Alusi has remained under the terrorist gun since and has survived repeated attempts on his life, the last a grenade attack on his house just this month.

Al-Alusi was born in 1953 to an Arab Sunni family of educators in al-Anbar province of Iraq. These days, like many other Iraqis interested in having a say in shaping the nation, he is busy organizing and running a political party. The platform of his new party, the Democratic Party of Iraqi Nation (, is to institute a stable government based on "a liberal constitution and free economy," by which he means "no borders for [technical] know-how and open doors for real investment, for example, to build a modern Iraqi oil industry." He considers a strategic alliance with the United States indispensable for Iraq.

Al-Alusi also thinks that Iraq should normalize its relationship with Israel. He told me recently "There is a need to be far away from fanatical ideas, and it's time for Iraq to have politics based on reality." He went on, "The reality is that Israel is a fact, and I cannot accept Iraqi politics based on Palestinian or Syrian interests." Al-Alusi elaborates that Iraq and Israel share common strategic interests and should cooperate on economic and technical issues.

He is openly critical of some countries. He laments, "When Saddam was inflicting terror on the Iraqi people, no Arab or Islamic country supported the Iraqi people against Saddam. The reality was that these countries supported Saddam against the Iraqi people. France, Germany and Russia did the same."

In comparison, he says, "I saw in Israel that 30 percent of Israeli citizens were of Arab origin, and that they had more rights than other Arabs in their own countries." With Iran looming on Iraq's eastern border, he thinks a relationship with Israel can serve as a strategic balance to "keep our new Iraq safe." He explains, "We cannot live in 2005 and still think like in 1005. The strategic relationships [with the United States and Israel] can be a pole to protect human rights, democracy and peace."

As Iraqis get ready to vote in a free election for the first time in at least fifty years, al-Alusi's party is fielding a modest slate of 24 candidates. He does not expect miracles this Sunday. He says, "We started the DPIN in 3 months, with no financial or government support. The only thing we have is our vision. That means even if we win only one seat, it will be a great event."

Even as Western media attention is fixated on terrorist attacks -- real voter intimidations and disenfranchisements, not the imaginary kind we often hear about in the US media -- and other negative news, there are new Iraqi politicians like al-Alusi who are working quietly but energetically to translate their ideals into practice.

I lived through the tumultuous democratization of South Korea from a military dictatorship, so I like to think that I know something of the price of democracy firsthand. Yet, I believe that the upcoming Iraqi election will be perhaps the greatest example of a burgeoning democracy I will have witnessed.

There will be, without doubt, more violence and other difficulties ahead on the road to this noble achievement in Iraq. Al-Alusi's son, Gamal, puts it best when he states, "It is true that we are in danger, but if this is the price for democracy and peace, it is a very low price." [neo coneli: Less than a month later, Gamal and his brother paid the ultimate price for their quest of demoacracy and peace]

James J. Na is a senior fellow in foreign policy at Discovery Institute in Seattle and runs the "Guns and Butter Blog."

Article from

James Na's posts in his blog
Guns and Butter Blog on the subject are a must read.

Mithal Al-Alousi standing by the bodies of his sons

Blogsphere Power

Eason Jordan Quits, Bloggers Mull Next Target
by Scott Ott

(2005-02-11) -- Even as embattled CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan announced his 'resignation' tonight, the ad hoc consortium of unedited writers known as the blogosphere met online to discuss which journalist should be the next to fall.

Still riding high from its role in the 'memogate' firings at CBS and the demise of two editors at the New York Times, the blogosphere took less than two weeks to turn rumors from Davos, Switzerland, into a pink slip for the 23-year veteran of CNN.

In a brief statement just after the networks' Friday evening newscasts, Mr. Jordan condemned the "targeting of journalists by bloggers."

However, some bloggers contend they have not gone far enough in their attacks on the mainstream media.

"So far, we've just weighted [sic] for some one [sic] to say or do something stupid before we ride them [sic] like a coal car into the ground," wrote one unnamed blogger. "But now it's time to get proactive. We're going to pick the next soon-to-be-former journalist and then force him into some career-ending vortex of deception and denial."

When asked about the threat, Mr. Jordan simply shook his head and muttered, "Hubris. Hubris."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Osama's lullaby

I just watched the 60 Minutes special about Mamdouh Habib (one of two Australians who spect many years in US custody in Gitmo - See my earlier post on the subject). While his wife gave a strong performance (and it is possible that a terrorist would not inform their spouse of their double life), his act was less than convincing, particulalry his refusal to explain how he ended up in Afghanistan and by some account - in an Al Qaida terror training camp.

The main message though that was clearly conveyed was that he was a human being like us all - with a loving wife and a solid family structure. I almost went soft on him, but then I realised: does Osama bin Laden not kiss his son goodnight or sing a lullaby to his daughter?!

One could even argue that the "humane" terrorist is worse than the tyrant - the latter knows no love while the former knows it, yet chooses to inflict the cruelest harm on others.

The Iran Update

Here are a few headlines from Iran, courtesy of the superb blog on the subject RegimeChangeIran (The bold articles are a 'must').

Friday, February 11, 2005

Carly Fiorina for Telstra

Let's start the rumour!

IHT (about HP's Fiorina) (about Telstra's Switkowski)

A tip to a Saudi royal

Saudi men have voted in a municipal election in the capital Riyadh.

It's the first stage in an unprecedented nationwide vote as the absolute monarchy inches toward reform.

The polls, from which women are excluded, are part of a cautious programme of reform introduced by de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah.

He's faced calls for change at home and from Saudi Arabia's main ally, the United States, after the September 11 attacks which were carried out by mainly Saudi hijackers.

Voters are deciding just half the members of municipal councils, whose powers are likely to be limited. The government will appoint the other council members.

More than 1,800 candidates competed in Riyadh and some have spent large sums on campaigns.

They range from businessmen, tribal figures and security chiefs to academics and officials.

ABC Radio Australia

If you are a royal Saudi monarch who stumbled upon my blog (sorry to disappoint - the "spade" is not oil rigging tool nor is it a weapon), here's a tip - if you want to appear progressive, don't run elections where half your population are banned from voting!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

UPDATE: Mithal Al-Alousi

Following yesterday's post on the subject, I found an article on this brave politician on ITM. They mantioned that his party's logan is "Don't Let Them Win" and in true form, Mithal Al-Alousi had words of peace, courage and strength on the Radio Free Iraq (RFI) interview he conducted on the day his sons died.

The Sunni areas groan under the hands of murderers and criminals who are neither Sunnis nor Iraqis. They are intruders in Iraq from among Al-Qaeda groupings and Ba'ath [Party] henchmen. They are the ghosts of death... They claim that Islam is a message of killing, while Islam is a message of peace. They claim that the principles [of Islam] encourage killing, while the only principles that encourage killing are the principles of the Ba'ath [Party] and of the heathens from Al-Qaeda groupings.

We will be building Iraq. We will be building Iraq despite all that has happened. May God help us.

RFI, 8 Feb 2005

I note that no one is willing to mention the reason for his targetting (the latest one being at least the fourth time - by my reckoning) - not even the good people at RFI or ITM. Although the RFI interviewer did allude to Mithal's attitudes towards Israel:

RFI: You have been the target of repeated assassination attempts. Do you believe the reason is your opinions and political attitudes, or is there another factor that has made you such a target?

Al-Alusi: They do not exclude anyone [from violence]. They target a [normal] citizen on the way to do shopping in the market; they target hospitals and schools; they target everyone. On the fact that I have been targeted personally, I have kept saying, "There is no way for Iraq but the way of peace," and, "There is no way for Iraq but the way of dialogue and institutions," and, "Nothing should exist in Iraq except according to the will of the Iraqi people." As for the advocates of religious intolerance willing to kill the [Iraqi] identity, or those who now imagine they might establish a [new] state in Iraq, be it religious or non-religious, I tell them, "Brothers, verily you have made a grave mistake." I tell them, "There can be no state in Iraq except for one founded on institutions and law." Mithal al-Alusi says from his unshaken positions, "I was calling for peace, and I will continue to call for peace -- even [for peace] with Israel." And may all the world hear that there will be no war if the Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, and Jordanians do not want war. I am not prepared to allow Iraqis to be turned into kindling for the flames of terrorists and ghosts of death.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Saluting Ayman and Jamal Al-Alousi

You may have come across this paragraph stacked in the footnotes of a CNN Article – a story deemed by an MSM editor as not worth telling:
An Iraqi politician survived an attempt on his life Tuesday, but his two sons and a bodyguard were killed, police said. Unknown gunmen opened fire on Mithal al-Alousi's convoy in Baghdad, police said. Al-Alousi is the general secretary of the Iraqi Nation Democratic Party.
KurdishMedia have gone further than CNN but also lack the gravity and context of this sad yet heroic saga (Note: kudos to KM for dropping the Shahid reference):
Yesterday morning in Baghdad, terrorists attempted to assassinate the leader of the Iraqi Nation Democratic Party (Hizb al-Umma al-Iraqiya al-Dimuqrati), Mithal al-Alousi.

While Mr. Alousi escaped, his two sons, Ayman and Jamal and a bodyguard were killed in the attack.Mithal al-Alousi, who has recently survived numerous assassination attempts, previously played a significant role in the de-Baathification of Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

In late 2004, Mr. Alousi founded the Iraqi Nation Democratic Party, which ran in the recent Iraqi elections as list number 322.

In an RFI (Radio France Internationale) interview with Mr. Alousi, he stated, "one of my body guards and two of my children died as heroes, no differently from other people who find their heroic deaths."

KurdishMedia seems to ignore the main reason why he became a target. In September of this year, Mithal responded positively to an invitation to participate in an Israeli conference on terrorism. Al-Alousi, who was allied with Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, was expelled from the party while in Israel. Al-Alousi ignored safety concerns and rejected an offer for safe refuge in London but rather chose to return home as a free Iraqi. Upon return, he was then charged with a Saddamite law banning travel to the "Zionist Entity". This, despite the protection of Article 13D of the Interim Constitution which declares that “each Iraqi has the right of free movement in all parts of Iraq and the right to travel abroad and return freely”.

Jamal Mithal al-Alousi, ex-head of the debaathification committee and an ex-member of the National Iraqi Congress party, headed by renown US supporter Ahmad Chelabi. Today Mr. Al-Alousi is an ex, a used-to-be, an outcast whose only crime….is a visit to Israel. Mr. Al-Alousi was invited to participate in international conference on global impact of terrorism that took place in Herzlliya, Israel11 -14/09/04. While still in Israel al-Alousi was notified that he was sacked from his position and from the party for visiting “a Zionist state”.

Not long after his return to Iraq al-Alousi learned that there was a court order against him and that he is about to be arrested. On what grounds, you ask? Well, apparently new Iraq still lives by old legal codes, and while Saddam Hussein is in prison and will soon be tried for his crimes, the laws that were produced by his regime are nevertheless valid!

The particular law that was broke by Mithal al-Alousi was issued in 1968 and states that any Iraqi that had visited Israel is to be punished severely. Not long ago all Iraqi passports bared a stamp “valid for visitation in any country except for Zionist entity”. Today the stamp is gone, but it seems that the routine is still very much alive. And although the bad guy with a moustache is locked away, his supporters around the country are determined to stick to the tradition of hatred, terror and fear.

Arabic Media Internet Network (note: a left wing slant but with valid points)

Our friends at Iraq the Model make reference to an interview he gave in October, a month in which he defends his visit
The Palestinians have communications with Israel, and so do the regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, Tunisia and even Iran although we don’t know exactly the size of communication between Iran and Israel”. [ITM: He also criticized Saddam’s policies in dealing with the Palestinians ]“Iraq was generous with both, financial and moral support but the result was an economic disaster and terrible living conditions for the people but on the other hand, millions of dollars accumulated in bank accounts of the corrupt officials.”

From Sawt Al Iraq (Link in Arabic).
In an interview given after the latest tragedy struck him, Al-Alousi stated the following:
I will continue to call for normalisation with Israel, even if the terrorists will try and assasinate me again. Peace is the only option; Peace with Israel is the only option for Iraq; Peace with everyone but the terrorists
Our hearts and prayers are with the Al-Alousi and his family who sacrificed his sons, his only sons, which he loved - Ayman and Jamal - for a higher ideal. Yet, he did not claim the crown of a martyr's father and described their death as being "no differently from other people who find their heroic deaths". Once again, placing the national tragedy of terrorism in higher regard than his own sentiments. A man of true valor!

Al-Alousi at the Herzliya conference on terrorism (11-14 September 2004)

Some afterthoughts:

  • Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom and Iraqi Prime Minister Alawi bump into each other in the UN corridor and after a few seconds of confusion, Alawi shook Shalom's outstretched hand and exchanged pleasantries. Upon returning to Iraq, Alawi had to defend the shake and he stated that he did not know who the man was [ed - yeah right! just turn on CNN every other night].
  • A question to any Iraqi readers: Why should Israel and Iraq be enemies? They share no borders or competing resources; Iraqis are no guradians of the Palestinians, and the issue is anyway on the road to resolution. Is it the Nuclear facility bombing? Years of propoganda? Is the fact that Israel did not respond to an Iraqi attack in 1991 so easily forgotten?! or was that a sign of weakness.
  • As a footnote, I make reference to this interesting article in Ha-Aretz which also makes reference to Alousi.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

In their own words: Sharon & Abbas announce an end to violence

We shall all declare today that violence will not murder hope. This is the day when the process began moving forward - to bring peace for all the people of the Middle East...

[There is a] new wind [blowing] and we should not let it pass, leaving us empty handed. We must not miss this opportunity to put a stop to four years of violence; this is a delicate opportunity, and we must be careful... we agreed that the Palestinians will put a stop to violence and Israel will stop its military actions against the Palestinians.

We must not make do with a temporary stop in violence, but rather be determined and make sure that terror comes to a full stop, for good. We are willing to commit to all the obligations we agreed upon, and expect the same from the other side.

To our Palestinian neighbors I promise that we intend to honor your right to live a life of peace; we have no desire to occupy you. You should prove you have the courage to reach compromises and live alongside us in peace and respect.

To my people: We have gone through four tough years – and overcome. Now is the time to bring about security, peace and quiet. This is the only way to reach a situation where there are two states, living in peace alongside each other.

- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Sharm e-Sheikh summit

We have agreed with PM Sharon to cease all acts of violence against the Israelis and the Palestinians wherever they are.

[Today is the] beginning of the process of bridging the gap between all of us.

It is high time that our people enjoy their right to live a normal life just like normal people under the rule of law. We look forward to that day and hope it will come quickly when the language of negotiations will replace the language of bullets.

- PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm e-Sheikh summit

For more on this story, read this Jerusalem Post article

Other developments:
- Egypt to return ambassador to Tel Aviv
- Jordam to return ambassador to Tel Aviv
- I predict over half a dozen Gulf and North African states will follow suit within 6-12 months

Middle-Eastern Anomaly

Headline 1:
Sharon, Abbas to announce an end to violence
Jersusalem Post

Headline 2:
Fear of attack ahead of summit
Jerusalem Post

Monday, February 07, 2005

Desperate Desperados

So let me get this straight, the Iraqi elections go off smoothly and those seeking to avenge those who voted are struck down by the good Lord - with a little help from His/Her friends:
Citizens of Al Mudhiryiah (a small town in the "death triangle") were subjected to an attack by several militants today who were trying to punish the residents of this small town for voting in the election last Sunday.

The citizens responded and managed to stop the attack, kill 5 of the attackers, wounded 8 and burned their cars.

3 citizens were injured during the fire exchange. The Shiekh of the tribe to whom the 3 wounded citizens belong demanded more efforts from the government to stop who he described as "Salafis".

Hat Tip: Free Iraqi

The insurgents resort to the lowest of the low - kidnapping handicapped children and using them as walking explosives (conjures up images of Hamas' use of Children and the mentally challenged in Israel):
The suicide attack that was performed on an election center in one of Baghdad's districts (Baghdad Al-Jadeedah) last Sunday was performed using a kidnapped "Down Syndrome" patient.

Eye witnesses said "the poor victim was so scared when ordered to walk to the searching point and began to walk back to the terrorists. In response the criminals pressed the button and blew up the poor victim almost half way between their position and the voting center's entrance".

Hat Tip: IraqTheModel

And to top it all up they kidnap "John Adams" or should I say "Cody" the toy soldier and threaten to decapitate him (Now, there is a beheading I wouldn't mind seeing). See Toy Story (and if you are in a good mood - Toy Story 2).

One party is definitely losing this war, and unlike what CNN, BBC, et al. will have you believing - it is not the Iraqis or their allied partners.

The Habib (in)justice

I Saw this article in the Green Left Weekly (a substandard Australian publication which supports civil liberties "Chavez style" - see banner on their site)

The Habib injustice — a threat to us all
Sarah Stephen & Aaron Benedek, Sydney

Consider this scenario: an Australian citizen travels to another country, is kidnapped by the military of a third country, receives absolutely no assistance from the Australian government, is imprisoned for three years at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay without charge and suffers repeated torture.

Eventually, this citizen is released due to lack of evidence and allowed to go home. Rather than apologising for its lack of action and offering compensation for his ordeal, the Australian government announces that the man will be kept under surveillance.

Well, Benedek & Stephen are quite correct, Mamdouh Habib’s Gitmo and post-Gitmo experience is a threat to all of you out there who plan to associate yourselves with a terror organisation (such as Lashkar-e-Taiba), meet the leaders of such groups, undergo the highest level of terror training Al Qaida offers, take part in the planning of September 11th, and call your wife in advance of WTC Attack and forewarn her that “something big is about to happen in America”. If the above is an apt description of yourself, beware, your freedom is in danger! Otherwise, soak up the sun, chuck a shrimp on the BBQ and enjoy the surf.

Habib got off on a technicality. Prior to 2002, it was not illegal for an Australian to be part of a terror group. When the legislators did get their act together, it was not retroactive and hence Habib enjoys freedom – albeit somewhat curtailed. Should his freedom be absolute? Should he be given a passport and allowed to board a plane to Pakistan? Give Osama & cronies a phone call? Or expect to live under no surveillance? Absolutely not!

Imagine this scenario: A paedophile is arrested after police confiscate a video in which he performs sexual acts with a ten year old boy. At the trial, the tape is held to be inadmissible for a technical reason (e.g. no search warrant). The man is released and applies to work in the kindergarten which you operate. Would you give him the job?

What the likes of the Green Left seem to forget is that with “rights” come “obligations” – both moral and legal. Joining a terrorist group is a clear breach of such an obligation, and as far as I care, Habib’s rights are dispensable.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Axis of Evil & the Seven Headed Dragon

"The Islamic Republic of Iran, because of defending the rights of the oppressed and confronting oppressors, is being attacked by the global tyrants" [At least he is picking up some of Bush's lingo – ed.]

Iranian Supreme Leader, Mullah Ali Khamenei on 3 Febuary 2005 in response To Bush’s State of the Union address.

Comparing the United states to "one of the heads of a seven-headed dragon" [see artist’s illustration below –ed.], Khamenei said Bush had been put in the White House by "Zionist and non-Zionist capitalists to serve their interests." [It would seem that “all Zionists are capitalists, but some capitalists are non-Zionist” - ed.]

And in an apparent reference to Iran's nuclear program, he said: "The Iranian nation's achievements and developments are surprising in many fields and have attracted the attention of the world."

The Persian Journal

USA Dragon Head - second head from right

Supreme Mullah Khamenei - head on the right

The Next Four Years

President Bush seemed to indicate that he intends to put into practice the elements of his inaugural address and seems to expect the following of various Arab nations over his coming term in office:
  1. A budding democratic process in Iraq, Afghanistan & the Palestinian entity: We have started to see this already.
  2. A move towards human rights from Egypt and anti-terrorism from Saudi Arabia: These are US allies by necessity who don't quite fit the mould described in the inaugural address
  3. A significant change in direction by Syria: Face sanctions or stop terror support; withdraw from Lebanon; and aim for conflict resolution with Israel.
  4. The big one: A non-military backed regime change in Iran: Bush evoked the recent events in Ukraine and Iraq to appeal to the man on the street in Iraq all while maintaining diplomatic pressure coupled by neighboring military muscle - the classic Good Cop (EU), Bad Cop (US) game.
  5. North Korea remains unclear
Read the highly recomended take on the Iran prediction at:
Regime Change Iran: Reading the tea leaves - Bush's Strategy on Iran

What if the Right was right?

Maybe you're like me and have opposed the Iraq war since before the shooting started -- not to the point of joining any peace protests, but at least letting people know where you stood.

You didn't change your mind when our troops swept quickly into Baghdad or when you saw the rabble that celebrated the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue, figuring that little had been accomplished and that the tough job still lay ahead.

Despite your misgivings, you didn't demand the troops be brought home immediately afterward, believing the United States must at least try to finish what it started to avoid even greater bloodshed. And while you cheered Saddam's capture, you couldn't help but thinking I-told-you-so in the months that followed as the violence continued to spread and the death toll mounted.

By now, you might have even voted against George Bush -- a second time -- to register your disapproval.

But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?

It's hard to swallow, isn't it?


Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown (a democrat) in his column What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

State of the Union

Click on the image for a summary of the address & a link to a webcast.

The Hug

U.S. first lady Laura Bush (R) applauds while her guest [Iraqi voter] Safia Taleb al-Souhail comforts Janet Norwood (C), whose son, Marine Corps Sergeant Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas was killed during the assault on Fallujah, as the Marine was honored during U.S. President George W. Bush State of the Union address in the House Chamber in Washington February 2, 2005. REUTERS/Larry Downing


SAWYER: It was such a moving moment for everyone, including clearly the president, in the room last night. Safia al-Suhail, whose father had been killed under Saddam, and who had held up her finger with ink on it to show she had voted for the first time in her life, was sitting in front of you.
First, did you know she would be there? And did you know you were going to lean over [and hug her]?

MRS. NORWOOD: No. We had no idea who was going to be there. We met as we went in the door [to the gallery]. She turned around and introduced herself. I asked her if her finger was purple and she held it up and showed me that it was. And I just grabbed her finger.

It would have made our son so proud to see the success of elections in Iraq.

MR. NORWOOD: We didn't know about her dad until something was mentioned. But it certainly enhanced our opinion of her. She was a very, very fine person.

MRS. NORWOOD: She thanked us for our son's sacrifice and made sure we knew that the people of Iraq were grateful for the sacrifices that were made, not just by our son, but by all of them.

SAWYER: And what did you say to her?

MRS. NORWOOD: I just told her how happy we were that the elections were successful and told her that our son would have been pleased.

MR. NORWOOD: Byron really believed that the Iraqi people deserved a chance to take ownership of the concept of freedom. And they certainly proved that they can do that now. So he would have been very pleased.

Hat Tip: Conservative Life

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Toy Story 2

NEWSFLASH: Private "Elmo" captured

The US Army is said to be investigating claims that Private Elmo of the Fluffy Red Brigade (Alpha Unit) has been taken captive by insurgents near the town of Samarra. In one footage, released on the Arab network Al Jazeera, the toy is threatened with decapitation if he "doesn't stop his annoying laughter". The circumstances leading up to the kidnapping as well as Private Elmo's state of health remain unclear. His long time partner Zoe has been kept updated by a Department of Defence official and has refused to comment on the story. Long time friend and neighbour Big Bird commented that "Elmo was loved by all and is missed by many".

Hat Tip: PowerLine

Toy Story

"Our mujahideen ... have managed to capture the American soldier John Adam after killing a number of his colleagues... We will cut his throat in 72 hours if our male and female prisoners in the occupation jails are not released" carried the above statement with a picture showing a U.S. soldier sitting in front of a black banner with a rifle pointed at his head. The mainstream media ran with the story, only to be placed in check by a few bloggers. The problem is that a) the US army is not aware of any missing soldiers and that b) "John Adams" is conspicuously similar looking to a toy model produced by DragonModels.

The following are the images of "John Adams" and the Toy as well as an animation comparing the two. It seems that some Mujahideen are getting pretty desperate. Would a successful Iraqi election have something to do with it?!

Hat Tip: and