Saturday, January 07, 2006

Perception of the US after Indecisiveness in Iraq

A few days ago I posted about the Middle East’s adherence to Hama Rules, and the need for the US to make a swift attack against the Iranian Nuclear reactor. The reason this is so important in this statement by Bin Laden’s right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri is congratulating Iraq on defeating the US in the present war.

The US considers this war a victory because we deposed Saddam Hussein. But the Islamic world can see it differently, as this article shows. Al-Zawahiri points to the US indicating that we are pulling out of Iraq as proof of Iraq’s victory, but he could have just as easily cited the election of a more fundamentalist government then the Hussein government, the over 2,000 US troops that have perished in car-bombings, or the failure to intimidate other leaders in the region with our might.

What is scary is that Bush does not understand that failure in war in the Middle East is an invitation to countries in the region to attack your interests. It is for this reason that Ahmadinejad is rising to prominence now, it is also why the Russians are able to comfortably ally themselves with the Iranians. And it is why Al Qaeda, who still appears to be living in the hills along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, is willing to laugh at the US openly.

Show us some heart, George W. Go and prove that the US is still a super power before the Islamic world believes one of these leaders when they say that they can beat the US in a war. Show us your pride, be swift and decisive. If there is ever a time for action, this is it.


Posted by Scottage at 1:42 AM / | |  

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sharon a Dove? I Don’t Think So

With Ariel Sharon on Death’s door after his massive stroke, the media is painting a picture of a leader who changed from a hawk into a dove over the later years in his life, pointing to the handing over that Gaza strip as proof that Sharon has “mellowed” over his later years.

Admittedly, I think relinquishing Gaza was an important step towards a lasting peace. But Sharon, a dove? Up to his last day, Ariel Sharon was a warrior, feared and/or hated by much of the Muslim world, adored by the Israelis who are comforted by the protection he provides.

Let’s not forget about the walk up the Temple Mount in September of 2000. His heavy retaliations during the beginning of the 2nd antifadah. Bull-dozing of houses, massive air strikes, targeted assassinations, and the building of the fence; these are the legacies of Sharon’s tenure as Prime Minister as much as the return of Gaza and the opening of the border between Egypt and Gaza are.

I admit that at many times I have not trusted Sharon’s intentions, and I was wrong about that; Sharon turned out to be an excellent Prime Minister. But to call Sharon a dove in his later years, well, you’re missing a huge part of what made him a great Prime Minister. Sharon did whatever he could to make the people of Israel feel safe, whether that was to court peace or the dogs of war. That was why Sharon was a great Prime Minister.


Posted by Scottage at 8:01 PM / | |  

Mother Road Moments


Posted by Scottage at 1:51 AM / | |  

Just In Case You Thought Ahmadinejad has Any Human Decency…

Iran’s president Ahmadinejad really has a gift for the gab. Today, while leaders from around the world praised and fretted for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ahmadinejad said he hopes Sharon dies.

"Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying. "Hopefully, others (criminals like him) will join him too,"

Well, he’s consistent. But people who are destined to be become true leaders of their people, even in the Middle East, know a balance between showing strength and showing compassion. Ahmadinejad definitely has shown little on the compassion side to date. In fact, he also hasn’t shown too much on the factual side, either.

Well, for now, he will just be my favorite ranting topic, and I’ll continue to think he’s a dangerous person to have as a leader of any nation, let alone Iran. And I suspect I’ll wind up writing one of these every time he opens his mouth.


Posted by Scottage at 1:03 AM / | |  

The Mystery Friend

I have a friend, a very cool guy. He always has interesting perceptions on events going on around the world. His views are rarely the same as mine, but they are always insightful. And while I may not agree with many of his arguments when the conversation is done, I have always learned something. He has posted here, he posts on other message boards all the time, and I have actually done posts based on his views in the past as well.

So I thought I would write a bit about him, our shared time in Israel, our common experiences growing up, what helped shape his views. And I was thinking I would post his photo, talk about our friendship, maybe the first in a series of posts about different friends around the world.

Meanwhile, the guy was totally against it. He wants to stay anonymous, doesn’t want anyone to know who expresses these views. Hopes to never have a photo of him posted anywhere, cloaked in the darkness of the shady man. He is the mystery man, with enough brightness to fill a room but dimmed by his own by his own desire for obscurity.

So here’s to the mystery man. He’s a great friend, I’ve known him forever, and I love him like a brother. May he move out of the shade, and let his light shine forth.


Posted by Scottage at 12:47 AM / | |  

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Israel after Ariel Sharon

With Ariel Sharon’s recent medical developments, one has to start looking at what life in Israel will be like after Ariel Sharon ceases to be the Prime Minister of the State. The changes that Israel will see may be much more dramatic than anyone anticipates.

First and foremost, Ariel Sharon is an amazing military strategist. He has played major roles in all of the Israeli wars, and is cited as the mastermind behind the 6-day victory against 6 Islamic countries in 1967. His recent victories in Prime Ministerial elections were largely due to the security that he provides all Israelis. And with Israel’s biggest wars 30 or more years in the past, Sharon was really the last remaining brilliant military mind in Israel. His military experience will be a huge loss, as will the feeling of security he provided.

But at the same time, Sharon himself incited much of the violence that Israel has seen over the past 20+ years. Both Antifadahs were started by Ariel Sharon marching up the Temple Mount with troops to show Israel’s sovereignty over the sacred ground. Sharon’s policy of military assassinations and devastating air strikes in retaliation for suicide bombings has been seen by the Palestinians as more punishment then is merited by the crimes, and has incited even larger waves of violence. Lengthy closures of the territories have had the same effect.

And after Sabra and Shatila, Palestinians have seen Ariel Sharon in the same way Israelis looked at Yasser Arafat: as the enemy, a mortal enemy to the end, and someone who is guilty of crimes against their people. Many times Palestinian leaders have said that they would never negotiate with Ariel Sharon, could never trust Ariel Sharon, and that any negotiation that included Ariel Sharon would never be ratified by the Palestinian people.

Of late, though, Sharon was the voice of the people, finding unique solutions to move closer to peace with the security so needed by the state. The unilateral withdrawal from the territories was a huge move, and while Gaza descends into violence, the violence has only barely touched on Israel because of the fence which Sharon created. And while many people have called the fence a land grab, it has been incorporated into the roadmap for peace, and is seen as an important part of coexistence in the region.

The recently formed Kadima party is all about Ariel Sharon, and reflects his views completely. He was campaigning on his plan for peace with security in the region, as was meeting with widespread support, more support than any party in Israel has ever received coming into an election. Many theorized that for the first time Sharon would be able to be the Prime Minister without forming a coalition and this would be a major show of trust by the Israeli people.

So what will Israel be like after Ariel Sharon? Israel may have gained a more willing partner for peace in Palestine, now that they won’t have to negotiate with a leader they consider to be a butcher. But Israel will miss Sharon’s blanket of security, his innovative concepts for pursuing peace with the Palestinians, and his recently-found ability to tie together different factions within Israeli society by addressing the common issues instead of focusing on the irreconcilable differences. And this is a lot to miss.


Posted by Scottage at 12:24 PM / | |  

Thursday Meme - Signs

The first stop built in the Santa Fe railroad is in Enid, Oklahoma, a town with a history rich in oil, though it's present isn't as fruitful. 60 years ago, a conductor from the Santa Fe rail started the first railroad museum in the US, which is also home for the first train to traverse the Santa Fe rail as well as signage and artifacts from all of the US' railroad history. I submit these pictures of signs from the original railroad museum for the Thursday Meme. Enjoy!


Posted by Scottage at 1:25 AM / | |  

West Virginia Mining Tragedy – When Would You Have Told The Families?

I, like everyone in the country, have been watching the events around the West Virginia mining accident with interest, horror, and sorrow. The poor families who heard their loved ones were alive, only to find out later they were dead, how horrible must that have been?

Would you have done it differently? The erroneous report came out at 11:49 pm est that the miners had been found, and that 12 of the 13 were alive. But when I went to sleep at 2:15 am, the fact that only one of the miners had been gotten out of the mine and taken to a hospital made me more than suspicious. I knew it wasn’t normal, and worried that we had been misinformed.

At 2:30 the mining company told the families of the deaths, and it took another 15 minutes to get to the media and to all of us watching the situation. But the mining company knew earlier. Ben Hatfield, President of the International Coal Group, said that he heard that the miners may be dead from one of the drilling teams, around 12:15, but since he didn’t hear definitively, he didn’t want to crush the spirits of the families waiting for their loved ones to ascend from the mine.

For over 2 hours the people of Tallmansville, West Virginia celebrated while International Coal consciously decided not to quell their hopes. OK, no question this is not the popular opinion, but I think I would have done the same thing. Until they knew definitively that the miners were dead, how can you squash what little hope these people had. I would think the waiting would be the hardest part of the situation for family members, and while false hope is not good, is it as bad as no hope? In this situation, maybe not.


Posted by Scottage at 12:46 AM / | |  

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The US Needs to Blow Up the Iranian Nuclear Reactor

No question, this will be my most controversial posting to date. But I’ve been studying Middle East politics for a lot of years now, both from the US and while living in the Middle East, and I can tell you that, by the rules played by in the Middle East, rules referred to in many texts as “Hama Rules”, respect comes from quick, thorough attacks, shows of force that all of your enemies you are committed to winning the current conflict. In this case, that show of force must be the destruction of Iran’s Nuclear reactor.

The term “Hama rules” is derived from the carpet bombing of Hama, the 4th largest city in Syria, by the Syrian government. In the 1970s and early 1980s, there was growing unrest throughout Syria. Many Palestinian refugees had settled in Syria, and they were thought to be forming alliances with the Sunnis of Syria, who were the majority in the country, although they had no political power whatsoever. The Palestinians were seen as pushing the Sunnis towards revolution.

President Hafez al-Assad knew the workings of the Middle East as well as anyone. And he knew that, with the Sunnis representing 70% of the population, anything but a quick punishing blow could be seen as a sign of weakness, and invitation for remaining Sunnis to take the power which the principles of democracy says should rightfully be theirs. So Assad, took quick action: he carpet bombed the city of Hama, a hotbed for anti-Assad unrest, killing over 25,000 of his own citizens.

Such swift and brutal military action has been seen throughout the History of the Middle East. Some more recent examples are the destruction of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps by the Philangists in Lebanon, which Israel must take some (or most?) of the blame for, and the bombing of the first Iranian Nuclear reactor. The first Gulf War in 1991 was also an example of this; The US’ carpet bombing of Baghdad sent a clear message to Iraq and the Islamic world in general that they shouldn’t mess with the US.

In a recent post I addressed Ahmadinejad’s goal of mobilizing the Islamic world behind him, and the advantage that his Iran will have if his goal of becoming a nuclear power is realized. Other countries have recognized this; Israel has contemplated destroying the reactor. The EU has said in the past that resuming work on Uranium enrichment would be a violation of the UN Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and would not be tolerated. Iran today announced that they would be resuming their Uranium enrichment program.

But the US is the target of much of the venom coming out of the Islamic world. It is the US that has been engaged in a long, drawn-out second war in Iraq, a war where the US did not play by Hama rules and where they have paid the price, both in terms of American lives and Middle East prestige. The US needs to gain back some of the respect they’ve lost in the region over the past 4 years, and they need to send a clear message to Iran that Nuclear proliferation will not be tolerated. They need to blow up Iran’s nuclear reactor.


Posted by Scottage at 10:23 PM / | |  

Soccer Parents Inadvertently Take Kids to Sex Party

A bunch of soccer parents brought their kids to Orlando for Disney’s Soccer Showcase over the New Years holiday, unaware that the hotel they were staying at (the Crowne Plaza) was also hosting a swinger’s party on New Years Eve. The party came complete with all the amenities, including both nudity and fornication in the main ballroom.

So it is no big surprise that the children were all pressed up against the glass, watching the festivities. And of course what followed were a number of poignant questions for the parents. Paul Camporini said he had to "delicately explain to my Catholic school children that swingers change partners during the evening." He went on to say, “My biggest gripe is that the hotel had two distinctly different groups under the same roof. A soccer team and middle-aged swingers should not have been booked together."

OK, it’s true; I have no idea of the horrors the parents had to face when explaining to their kids what they had just seen. And certainly after Janet Jackson the whole question of what are kids are and should be “exposed” to by the outside world is more of a question than it ever has been. But hotels are in business to make money, and not to judge how well groups will work out together. Next time, either find a way to keep your kids from the ballroom or think up some good answers to sticking questions.


Posted by Scottage at 4:33 PM / | |  

Monday, January 02, 2006

CIA Leader in Afghanistan Details How the US Let Bin Laden Slip Away

In December 2001, the CIA sent a 4-man military team into Afghanistan to hunt down Osama Bin Laden. They tracked the Al Qaeda leader, who had just blown up the World Trade Centers, to a mountain in Tora Borah, but never caught him. The reason given was the decision to use Pakistani troops instead of American troops, as they knew the area better. Supposedly, we commissioned 100,000 Pakistani men to seal the border and prevent Bin Laden’s escape.

New facts are now coming to light. Gary Berntsen, Leader of the 4-man CIA military team, has left the CIA, and has now written a book, called “Jawbreaker”. I watched an interview with him on CNN, and let me tell you, I’m reading. If the interview is representative of the book, it can’t help but force us to question whether Bush’s priorities were in the correct place, hunting the killer of thousands of Americans, or if his priorities were in Iraq, a war which I believe was based on misinformation at best.

Berntsen indicates that all 4 members of the CIA team agreed that American troops were necessary to catch Bin Laden. They knew he had not been killed by air strikes because they heard him making apologies over an unencrypted radio apologizing to people in the region for hardships he had brought down upon them. Berntsen indicates he repeatedly requested the American troops for the region, both orally and in writing, and includes documentation of his requests in the book.

Berntsen also pointed out another piece of misinformation provided to the American public: there were only 4,000 Pakistani troops provided to seal the boarder from the Tora Bora Al Qaeda retreat. Furthermore, Bernsten notes that some of these troops had been members of Al Qaeda merely months before, and that everyone questioned their loyalty. Between the lack of troops and the questionable loyalty, what were the odds of really catching Osama Bin Laden?

So let’s examine it objectively. Osama Bin Laden commits a brutal attack on American soil, killing thousands and permanently destroying the sense of safety many Americans felt pre 9-11, and we send 4 people after him. Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant, but never directly attacked America. Furthermore, the country was already stripped of much of its military power by Bush Sr. So of course the hunt for Saddam Hussein merits 135,000 troops to date, with over 2,000 casualties.

I guess it pays to have business ties with the president of the United States, huh? Yep, I’m sure that statement will get me some hatred from the conservatives (if anyone ever reads this). But I can’t figure out any other reason why we would not have taken out a dangerous criminal like Osama Bin Laden when we had the chance.


Posted by Scottage at 11:28 PM / | |  

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Ahmadinejad Not Only Dangerous but Dumb

Once again Iranian president Ahmadinejad has come out with a ridiculously anti-Semitic comment, this time saying "Don't you think that continuation of genocide by expelling Jews from Europe was one of [the Europeans'] aims in creating a regime of occupiers of [Jerusalem]? Isn't that an important question?"

Only last month, Ahmadinejad was saying that the Holocaust never occurred that it was a “myth” perpetrated by the Israeli people to gain sympathy and support for the state of Israel. Now he comes back saying that, yes, the Holocaust did occur, and the creation of Israel was just the final piece in Europe’s plan to rid Europe of Jews, creating a “Jewish Camp” where the Jews could be sent to.

I talked in my last post about what Ahmadinejad has to gain by these comments. And certainly I’m appalled by the anti-Semitism shown here, and Ahmadinejad’s push to turn the Arab world against Israel more than they have been in years. But it’s hard for me to judge either of those aspects, since I’m not in Ahmadinejad’s shoes, leading Iran in troubled times.

But stirring up hatred to cause hatred helps no one. It will not mobilize people behind you; it will just mobilize random hatred in no particular direction. So instead of just spitting out whatever venom you happen to have on your mind, let’s try to use the facts; there’s plenty of material there to help your cause, and it won’t create the uncontrollable situation that can be created from misinformation and lies.


Posted by Scottage at 6:34 PM / | |  

Ahmadinejad Trying to Push the Muslim World towards Action and Unity

I am personally appalled by Ahmadinejad’s statements regarding Israel as a “Jewish Camp” established as a final solution by Europe to rid the continent of Jews. But more then I am appalled, I am scared that Ahmadinejad could succeed in his plan to become a uniting figure for the Muslim community, acting as a catalyst for war, calling them to action against the Zionist infidel.

The concept is not new. The Islamic world has the massive population to challenge any current super-power, and what’s more, that population, in general, has more wartime experience then members of the armies from the super-powers. Furthermore, there are significant military minds in the Middle East, tested in those same ever-present battles. Islamic leaders in general have more of a taste for war, and my experience has shown Islamic leaders more willing to carry out devastating attacks, as they are less concerned with consequences.

The biggest barrier to success for an Islamic army is the lack of unity between the people. Unless a leader can tie together all the Islamic communities against a common enemy, you will never create an army in the region that could rival military powers throughout the world. And so that is what Muslim leaders have done for years: tried to motivate the entire Islamic world, or at least huge portions of it, against a common enemy or threat, to get all the regions players moving in the same direction.

To do this, a leader like Ahmadinejad has to prove two things to the Arab world: first, that the cause is just, moral, of religious significance, and second, that if the leader had the backing of the Muslim world, they would have the possibility of winning a war against a major super-power. The first proof has made Israel a target for many years, the target of leaders such as Arafat, Khomeini, and Khadafi, as all point to the unholy occupation of Islam’s second holiest site, The Dome of the Rock, as an affront to Islam. It has also made the US a likely target as well, for leaders such as Hussein and Bin Laden.

The second proof is much tougher. While this region may have superior numbers in their troops and more experience for their troops, is still far behind the super-powers in terms of technology. The US and European countries are far superior in terms of their air force and navy. The Muslim world, for the most part, lacks the accuracy in their medium to long range attack technology to be truly effective in standard warfare. And until now, most Islamic nations have had the ability to be ultimately destructive (i.e. they don’t have nuclear weapons).

Ahmadinejad is trying to counter all of these issues. He has made close alliances with Russia, who may not be as advanced technologically as the US or Europe, but they have a significant air force, as well as significant military capability. And with the development of Uranium separation machinery, they are very close to having nuclear capability. As such, Ahmadinejad believes he simply needs to get to the Islamic world buy into the urgency of the Israel/Palestine issue to mobilize the Islamic military might.

In reality, my perception is that the Israel/Palestine issue is not nearly as significant to the Muslim world as it was 10 years ago. People are more concerned with their own lots in life, and are a bit sick of the violence and bloodshed. And I also suspect that Ahmadinejad has a long way to go before convincing the other Islamic countries that he has the fire power to compete with a super-power. But every day he becomes more of a threat as he gains more acceptance in the war-torn Middle East. Let’s hope that the world community can get together to prevent Ahmadinejad from reaching his goals.


Posted by Scottage at 6:29 PM / | |