IF YOU EVER DOUBT HIS SPECIAL PROVIDENCE, RECALL WE SURVIVED THIS CLOWN (via Pepys):

April 23, 2006

Been there, done that: Talk of a U.S. strike on Iran is eerily reminiscent of the run-up to the Iraq war. (Zbigniew Brzezinski, April 23, 2006, LA Times)

IRAN’S ANNOUNCEMENT that it has enriched a minute amount of uranium has unleashed urgent calls for a preventive U.S. airstrike from the same sources that earlier urged war on Iraq. If there is another terrorist attack in the United States, you can bet your bottom dollar that there also will be immediate charges that Iran was responsible in order to generate public hysteria in favor of military action.

But there are four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities:

First, in the absence of an imminent threat (and the Iranians are at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war. If undertaken without a formal congressional declaration of war, an attack would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president. Similarly, if undertaken without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council, either alone by the United States or in complicity with Israel, it would stamp the perpetrator(s) as an international outlaw(s).

It’s nonsense, of course, but were it really the case that a Democrat wouldn’t attack Iranian nuclear facilities, or any other suchh enemy, without the UN okay they’d never win another election. Giving France, China, and Russia veto over our national interest would be an act of political suicide. The reality is that a President Gore or Kerry would be likewise preparing an attack and the only difference is that they’d have the full support of the other party.


TO BACK BUSH AND BLAIR IS TO DEPART THE LEFT:

April 23, 2006

Why the Euston group offers a new direction for the left: A disparate set of left-wing thinkers meeting in a London pub has reopened an essential debate on the nature of democracy (Will Hutton, April 23, 2006, The Observer)

To be on the left is to be both temperamentally inclined to dissent and to be passionate about your own utopia, which can never be achieved. Condemned to disappointment, you rage at the world, your party and your leader.

Relative peace comes when the right is in power and the left temporarily sinks its differences before the greater enemy. But to survive in office, the left leader must keep utopian factionalism at bay and that means making your followers understand hard realities and tough trade-offs and selling them the ones you make yourself.

Until Iraq, Blair had been pretty effective in squaring away his various critics, but the war has overwhelmed him. Almost every strand of left utopianism has been offended, from human-rights activists to anti-American imperialists, internationalists to straightforward peaceniks. And with Iraq now on the edge of civil war, their every fear and warning has been amply validated. With no strand in the left ready to utter a word in his support, the Prime Minister has had zero leverage to fight back. Down and down he has gone in the eyes of his left-wing critics.

Which is why a small meeting of disillusioned leftist journalists, university lecturers and passionate bloggers in a London pub last year is proving a potentially important political event. Two or three internet bloggers have been arguing strongly for some months that whether it was for or against the Iraq invasion, Western liberal opinion must now stand united behind the attempt to create and entrench the panoply of democratic and human rights in Iraq and be against the religious fundamentalism propelling it down.

Western liberalism has been making a fundamental mistake in claiming that, because they spring from a war so many of us opposed, the anti-Enlightenment jihadists and insurgents are somehow Bush and Blair’s responsibility. The right course now is to construct an Iraqi democracy which means backing the hated Blair and Bush.

Note the core problem that Mr. Hutton and the most good-intentioned members of the Decent Left can’t overcome: they accept the notion that you can be a liberal in good standing but oppose replacing a genocidal tyrant like Saddam with a parliamentary democracy on principle. They want to sleep with Evil but wake up virginal in the morning.


IF THEY CONSIDER THEMSELVES A NATION THEY WILL BE:

April 23, 2006

Morocco orders captives’ release (BBC, 4/23/06)

Morocco’s King Mohammed has ordered the release of 48 Sahrawi activists jailed last year for demonstrations demanding the independence of Western Sahara.

Officials said the pardon would free the last remaining political prisoners from Western Sahara. […]

Morocco has rejected a UN-sponsored peace plan involving immediate self-government for Western Sahara and a referendum on independence within five years.

But Morocco has offered to give the territory greater autonomy.

“The sovereign has pardoned all the Sahrawi prisoners and they are already being freed,” an official source was quoted by news agency AFP.


FUNNY SORT OF FAILURE:

April 21, 2006

Baghdad presses hum with sound of freedom (Zaid Sabah, 4/20/2006, USA TODAY)

In a back room at al-Shams printing house in Baghdad sits a clamoring German-built printing press, reverberating with the sound of a newfound independence.

“What has changed in the business is the freedom,” says Ameer Marouki, 50, who has operated the printing house since 1979. “Under Saddam, we were not able to print religious books, cleric’s posters and newspapers. Now we can print anything we want,” he says.

If anyone is capitalizing on freedom, it’s Iraq’s printers. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, there were nine government-sponsored newspapers and four magazines in Iraq. Since then, at least 294 independent newspapers and magazines have been established in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

But Sean Wilentz doesn’t take a Baghdad paper…


PROGRESS COMES FROM THE RIGHT:

April 20, 2006

The Euston Manifesto: It started with some like-minded progressives meeting in a London pub. Disenchanted with what they saw as the wrong-headed thinking of the anti-war movement, they began to talk of a new left movement. (Norman Geras and Nick Cohen, 17th April 2006, New Statesman)

In the preamble to the Euston Manifesto, we announce our broad aim:

We are democrats and pro-gressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the left that remain true to their authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.

We then go on to a statement of principles. There is no space here to present them in detail, but this is a brief summary:

We value the traditions and institutions of the liberal, pluralist democracies, and we decline to make excuses for, to indulgently “understand”, reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy. We hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal. Equally, violations of these rights are to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context. The manifesto speaks of our attachment to egalitarianism in all domains.

We reject the anti-Americanism which is infecting so much left-liberal thinking. We support the right of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples to self-determination within the framework of a two-state solution. There are paragraphs opposing racism and identifying the resurgence of anti-Semitism; on terrorism and against the excuses made for it; on humanitarian intervention when states violate the common life of their peoples in appalling ways.

We argue that the time is long overdue to break with the tradition of left apologetics for anti-democratic forces and regimes; that there is a duty of respect for the historical truth; and that it is more than ever necessary to affirm that, within the usual constraints against incitement, people must be at liberty to criticise beliefs – including religious be liefs – that others cherish.

The left now has to fight two battles simultaneously. We defend democracies against all who make light of the differences between them and tyrannical regimes. But these democracies have shortcomings. Their social and economic foundations are marked by deep inequalities and unmerited privilege. In turn, global inequalities are a scandal to the moral conscience of humankind. Millions live in terrible poverty, an standing indictment against the international community. In keeping with our traditions, we on the left fight for justice and a decent life for all. In keeping with the same traditions, we have also to fight against powerful forces of tyranny, which are on the march again.

The supporters of the Euston Manifesto took different views on the war in Iraq, both for and against. We recognise that it was possible reasonably to disagree about the justifications for the war and the manner in which it was carried through. We are, however, united in our judgement of the reactionary, murderous character of the Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and we recognise its overthrow as a liberation of the Iraqi people. We are also united in the view that, from the day this occurred, the proper concern of the liberal left should have been the battle to put in place in Iraq a democratic political order and to create, after decades of brutal oppres-sion, a life for Iraqis which those living in democratic countries take for granted – rather than endlessly rehearsing the arguments over intervention.

This puts us in opposition not only to those on the left who have actively spoken in support of the gangs of jihadist and Ba’athist thugs of the Iraqi “resistance”, but also to others who manage to find a way of situating themselves between such forces and those trying to bring a new democratic life to the country, or who pay lip-service to this aim, while devoting most of their energy to criticism of their political opponents at home and observing a tactful silence about the ugly methods of the Iraqi “insurgency”.

The problem — as Michael Walzer, who’s featured in Redefining Sovereignty, has pointed out — is that there seemingly can’t be a Decent Left. In effect, these folks are somewhat unwilling members of the Right. However, should they ever process the fact that Third Way/New Democrat/Ownership Society policies are the best way to help the world’s poor they may become willing.


JOSEPH'S BOOK, NOT PHAROAH'S:

April 19, 2006

What Muslims Hear at Friday Prayers: Is there really a clash of the cultures between Islam and the West? SPIEGEL documents Friday sermons from mosques around the world. As imams guide their congregations, they praise the delights of paradise, sow the seeds of doubt in government authority — and sometimes preach hatred. (Der Spiegel, 4/19/06)

Islam has many faces, and on the Friday before the Prophet’s birthday, SPIEGEL correspondents visited mosques from Nigeria to Indonesia to listen to the sermons of the imams. They were there in part to look into a suspicion that has taken hold in the West, especially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Have the mosques been transformed from a place of prayer into a hotbed of extremism and center of Islamist indoctrination? Is there truly a dangerous clash of cultures underway, as so many people in Europe and America fear? […]

Whereas imams in places like Istanbul and Jakarta tended to devote their sermons to theological exegesis, Friday prayers in Pakistan, Iran and the Gaza Strip were markedly more political. In these places, religious scholars whipped their listeners into a holy frenzy and drew a sharp line between the Dar al-Islam, or House of Islam, and the Dar al-Harb, or House of War — the two spheres into which schools of Islamic legal thought have divided the world.

But at the same time, often in the same sermon, imams ask God for help in confronting everyday woes, issue moral appeals to their own political leaders and constantly return to the Islamic world’s greatest lament: a comparison between the gloomy present and the glorious past. […]

[D]idin Hafiduddin, the imam at Istiqlal Mosque in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, made no mention of the precarious geopolitical situation in his sermon, given in one of the world’s largest houses of prayer. Titled “Professionalism and Honest Trusteeship,” it sounded more like a presentation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland than fiery religious rhetoric. Hafiduddin told the faithful in the most populous Islamic country about Joseph the Israelite, the man charged with running the Egyptian pharaoh’s economy. He drew parallels between the story — which is also mentioned in the bible — and modern-day Indonesia’s struggles with corruption.

“Place me in charge of the granaries of the land, and you will see that I am a clever custodian,” Joseph advises the pharaoh in the Koran sura that bears his name. No one has ever been a more efficient manager than Joseph, at least according to the imam from Jakarta. Today’s leaders ought to take a page from Joseph’s book, he said, adding that “corruption, laziness and fraud bring about destruction.” By contrast, said the Indonesian imam, God rewards professionalism and a “strict work ethic” with happiness and fulfillment.

The moral appeal to one’s own political leadership is a leitmotif in the sermons of Muslim preachers — but also a natural response to strict autocratic conditions in many Islamic countries. It was almost an understatement when Sheikh Ibrahim Abu Bakr Ramadan, an imam in the Nigerian city of Kano, said that the “injustice emanating from our leadership is the worst part of our society,” in reference to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s efforts to amend the constitution so that he can be reelected when his current term expires in 2007.

In Peshawar, Pakistan, Maulana Khalil Ahmad compared the world’s monotheistic religions and — perhaps not surprisingly — praised Islam as being the most complete of them all: “Contradictions prevail, especially in Christianity and Judaism, as well as in Communism.” But that was mild compared with the sermon his fellow local imam Abd al-Akbar Chitrali gave in the same spot a week earlier, when he derided Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s claim to have given Pakistan true democracy. Musharraf, the imam complained, is trying to introduce the “Western secularism” of his idol, Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The founder of the modern Turkey, said Chitrali, was a man who “turned mosques into churches and had religious scholars murdered. Listen to me, Muslims! Kemal Atatürk is not our ideal. Musharraf is not just attempting to placate the West and the USA, but also to remain permanently in power.”

It’s no coincidence that Turkey has a GDP per capita of $8k. That’s the psychic break that Islam faces–they can’t escape from the gloomy present to a glorious future unless they reform along the lines of the Western separation of Church and State.


CRUSADING THEY WILL GO:

April 19, 2006

Foreign troops arrive in Solomons (BBC, 4/19/06)

Australia troops are arriving in the Solomon Islands to help restore peace after rioting and looting in the capital, Honiara.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched on the government building on Wednesday, demanding the Prime Minister-elect, Snyder Rini, stand down.

Parts of Honiara are in ruins following rioting on Tuesday, and demonstrators have threatened more destruction.

Mr Rini denies claims he is corrupt and favours Chinese businessmen.

Much of Honiara’s Chinatown area was razed overnight and some families were forced to jump from burning buildings. Police have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the city. […]

Some 180 Australian soldiers and police have begun arriving in the country to try to impose order after a written request from the Solomons government. A smaller contingent of additional New Zealand peacekeepers are set to arrive on Thursday.

We’re from the Anglosphere and we’re here to help.


YOU MEAN CHINA HAS TO LIBERALIZE TOO?:

April 19, 2006

White House Puts Face on North Korean Human Rights (Peter Baker, 4/19/06, Washington Post)

The story of how an obscure instance of individual hardship came to figure in a meeting between two of the world’s most powerful leaders sheds light on the crosscurrents of U.S. foreign policy under Bush. The son of a former envoy to Beijing, Bush has worked to build stable relations with China and wants its help on urgent priorities such as curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Yet the same president has proclaimed expanding freedom to be the guiding principle of his foreign policy, with the goal of “ending tyranny in our world.”

So as diplomats and bureaucrats throughout the U.S. government in recent weeks assembled briefing books on the Chinese currency and the trade deficit and other issues of importance to Bush’s business backers, another corner of government, much smaller, has worked to put on the table China’s treatment of desperate North Koreans who slip across the border.

They have been aided in that quest by a growing movement of Christian activists who lately have adopted North Korea as a cause, much as they earlier did Sudan, and pushed Congress into passing legislation intended to make human rights in Asia’s last Stalinist outpost a higher U.S. priority.

“We just feel this is what we’re commanded to do,” said Deborah Fikes, executive director of the Midland Ministerial Alliance from the president’s Texas home town. “If you’re a follower of Christ, this should be one of your number one priorities, speaking out for the oppressed, and I can’t think of anybody more oppressed than the North Koreans.”

The case of Kim offered an opportunity to put their concern front and center. Never before has the Bush White House singled out a North Korean asylum seeker by name and held Beijing responsible for her fate, according to U.S. officials and human rights workers. The timing was especially pointed, coming just before the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who will be greeted tomorrow by a 21-gun salute on the South Lawn of the White House.

Administration officials said Bush feels strongly about the situation. “He’s taken a very personal interest and a fairly significant interest in the issue of human rights,” said Jay Lefkowitz, whom Bush appointed last year as a special envoy for human rights in North Korea. “He fundamentally believes the character of the North Korean regime is defined by its human rights conduct.”

It’s almost as if he’s serious about all that human rights guff….


JFK WAS NO W (via Tom Morin):

April 18, 2006

The invasion that could have saved Latin America (Val Prieto, April 17, 2006, Babalu Blog)

My father in law was a member of La Brigada 2506 and fought in the Bay of Pigs in what was called Operation Mongoose by the US Government. He has a million stories to tell, everything from the moment he decided to join La Brigada and fight for the freedom of Cuba, to the training, the embarcation, the invasion, the battle on the beaches, his capture and incarceration and the subsequent torture — physical and mental — at the hands of fidel castro, to his release and reunification with his wife and daughter here in the States. My words can do his story no justice, but someday it will be told. Until then, Edgar, Happy Birthday. The following articles are for you and your brothers and sisters in arms to assure you that this generation, our generation, has not and will not forget your sacrifice and love for una Cuba libre.

Today is the 45th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs Invasion and in honor of those who fought and sacrificed for the freedom of Cuba, Babalú Blog offers the following homages.

Even if you forgive John Kennedy for biffing the Bay of Pigs, there’s no excuse for not taking advantage of the pretext he was handed in the missile crisis. He didn’t even need to lie about WMD.


BOY, THAT HARPER WORKS FAST:

April 14, 2006


Uproar as artists turn backs on sovereignty
: Stars’ remarks a cause célèbre in Quebec (INGRID PERITZ, 4/14/06, Globe and Mail)

Artists have always been in the vanguard for Quebec independence. So when two of the province’s artistic luminaries questioned their sovereigntist faith this week, their remarks fell like a bombshell.

Michel Tremblay, the world-acclaimed playwright whose works have helped capture Quebec’s soul, declared that he was no longer a separatist. It was as if the Pope were renouncing Catholicism. Mr. Tremblay’s words were front-page news.

Then another light of the Quebec stage, Robert Lepage, enjoined that he, too, was “less convinced” about independence. The theatre director even admitted to ambivalence about his Quebec identity, since he considered himself Canadian when he travelled the world.

“When I’m here in Quebec, even in Ottawa, I don’t feel Canadian,” Mr. Lepage said. “But when I travel abroad, I don’t know what happens, I feel that Canada is a reality, and I’m part of it.”

The pair’s avowals had the entire province talking. And the backlash within independence circles, especially against the iconic Mr. Tremblay, was fast and ferocious.

Stop thinking of yourselves as a nation and you aren’t one.