Thursday, August 31, 2006

A final word from Lebanon -

I have been "reading while falling" since it featured in BLoggers "of note" list.

The final post before he left Beirut was posted Saturday. I have just finished reading it for the third time.
You wonder about getting up. This is your last official errand for the SDC. You have accompanied SDCCurlyRedHairVolunteer to the hospital so that SDCCRHV can have a meeting with one of the staff here. The SDC is producing a hygiene manual for children enduring tough conditions as their homes are being rebuilt. You have been told to wait as the meeting will last only 15 minutes. Over an hour has passed.

You take to the chair, only glancing up occasionally at the doctors and nurses emerging onto the balcony above the waiting area, silently and with straight faces and white coats watching the parade of people come in and out. The images of Qana roll through your mind as do the visions of destroyed bridges, the smoke rising from the port, the old man screaming in his bed, the filthy stickiness of the Beirut shelters, the overwhelming anger at how quietly this challenging and destructive failure of 'the system' and individuals seems to be slipping away, attention redirected to Iran or whatever new conflict currently brewing in the minds of the powers that be. Selim is convinced Israel will take the Bekaa Valley next, where Hizbullah is still strong and the International presence will be weak. By fear or by plan. And regardless, what has changed? There will be another conflict soon, there will be more dead given only a number to mark their graves. Some of them will be children. You are hit quickly with two successive impulses: 1) to rush into the hospital, to sit and chat and invest a comforting interest in the lives of those patients that have no one to visit them; 2) to shut up your stupid idealistic mind - who are you to do that job? You are certain that one of the patients would be upset with you for not being the rounds nurse that he has been expecting for over an hour with his pudding cup. Where is my pudding? Where is my pudding, dammit?

later -
Baha: Here we have had the Greeks, we have had the Romans, Ottomans, the Arabs, the French the British…

You remember that instead of taking a Guidebook with you to the Middle East all you took was a $4 Rand McNalley historical atlas of the world. In recent days you have been flipping through it, watching the area of Lebanon change color at almost every page, dominated by some new force...early in the book, the city of Tyre appears - on par with Carthage as one of the largest cities in the world 1000 BC. It's been leveled as of last month.

Baha: But ...and the history you have? You do not look to your history because you do not know it - only we see your history. Bush, Rice...they are saying that this is a new's a new...

Me: experiment

Baha: it is the same, it is the same that happens with us again and again. This is the same experiment – it is the same as 1950s, as 70s, as 80s as 90s... it is the same again and again!

We go through all of of Middle East modern history. The creation of Israel, the series of conflicts, the US buying off Egypt to secure peace, the US funding both sides of the Iran/Iraq war which killed hundreds of thousands (IranGate under Reagan); we touch back on other issues. They raise the argument that the US Civil War has more to do with economic interests than anything as noble as the rights of the human being, talk about Native Americans, the Louisiana purchase, contras, Bin Laden (funded until even '96 by the CIA under Clinton)... you talk about 9/11, you talk about Pearl Harbor, you talk about the military-industrial complex. You see your country as having fallen down a very, very slippery slope.

The themes of economic interests and ideological interests and military posturing as intertwined appears...

Selim: You know, we kick Baha around and we call him a jackass for fun but you know he is speaking the truth. The United States, you like to let us grow big big big so you can cut us down, so you can claim a victory. You like to keep us broken up...

You all agree that this is a problem, a course of action that has failed...and you sit and watch the others still trying to figure out how to transition to a more forward-thinking foreign policy. How to cement in the mind of the average American the idea that neighborliness is actually strength? That supporting economic development of all regions is the only way to lay the cornerstone to peace ("you know, people will fight when they are hungry")? To inspire a new level of competition in American companies that will reform our education system in a way that promotes truly innovative, capable and creative minds. You ask them what should be done.

Baha: You should play the.. broker.

Me: The 'honest broker'.

Baha: Yes.

Selim: No no no, it's not gonna work. You can't, the United States can't do that anymore. You already have declared your stake. With this, you know, this changes things. You have to look at that stake first.

Me: Well, if I were president what would you tell me to do? You're my political advisor...

Selim: You have to figure out...what is the deal that the United States has with the Arabs?

He's right. We have no real foreign policy, no system in place, ad hoc decisions based on playing favorites...

Selim: To do that you stop funding Israel – no not stop funding - just fund who is right, who does the right thing. Play by rules. You have a stake now. America was built to be a republic, not an empire. You are not set up to do this. And look, look at what happens when you try to go against your own design? Look everywhere...this is just an embarrassment to the United States. This is a real embarrassment. With Clinton he did great things but they didn't take, they were weak and he left office. But still, he understood. With Bush? This guy... ..I know the Syrian Ambassador to the US, I have met him personally. And the Syrian Ambassador, who is a real jerk I don't like this guy, he told me this story. When he first arrived in the United States, he went with his wife to meet with the President. It's a custom to go and meet and introduce. He goes to meet with Bush. And Bush he turns to the ambassador's wife and he says 'so how do you like America?' and his wife says that she is bored, that she wants to find a place to continue her studies; Bush says, oh, what are you studying? Computer engineering. Bush says to her – and I cannot...he says to her: 'they let women study in the middle east? They let them go to college?" this is the most powerful man in the world! This is the man who claims to have a new plan and he does not know a thing about what he is doing!

Baha: "Thomas, Thomas look at me. I want for you to promise that you will do me a favor. Only to your friends, I want you to tell your friends. Tell them we have internet. Tell them we do not – we are not bombing things all the time (mimes bombs strapped to his chest). Tell them that we read books! Please Thomas! Ha ha ha! I am serious, you have to tell them. Tell your friends. Tell someone. Tell them we read books. Tell them these things.

Selim: We have culture here. Thousands of years.

Me: So, why the fighting? Because you would think with would think with age would come...

Selim: Because along with culture, we do not have a strong economy which means we do not have the best schools. Without good education the people turn to religion as a crutch, which leads to divisions. This is not just the middle east – this is everywhere, this is how people are, you know? And where the religion leads, the people support.

And with that last comment from Selim, I gently direct your thoughts back to my previous post.
The fight of secularists against racism and poverty appears bland compared to the ardent certainties of religion. ... Jamaat and other fundamentalist groups are sowing the seeds of future conflict, as well as obscuring more hopeful and humane pathways to equity and harmony for Bengalis, in both Britain and Bangladesh.

Thomas, thank you so very much for your record. Thank you so very much for your honesty. I wish you well in everything that you do.

Please, remember that idealism fades with age. Do not let it be further dimmed by cynicism.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Thoughts on the origins of radicalism and terrorists...

Out of New Republic comes this article titled "London Broil". The full text can be found here at the author's own site.

Without reproducing the whole piece here (for no other reason than respect for copyright) the conclusions are interesting -
How did Al Qaeda's militant worldview become so popular among a subset of British Pakistanis? For one thing, there is the generational divide in the community. Just as in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons--which depicts the rift between an older generation of nineteenth-century Russian liberals and their more militant, socialist sons--some of Great Britain's young Pakistanis are filled with contempt both for the moderation of their parents and for a British society that won't quite accept them. For many, this leaves a vacuum in their identities that radical Islamist preachers have been all too glad to fill. Now, young disciples of those preachers--Abu Muwaheed, for instance--have come into their own, and they are often even more radical than their mentors. Add to this the fact that one-quarter of young British Pakistanis are unemployed, and you have a population that is especially vulnerable to the temptations of radicalism.

But how to explain the lure of militancy for those who travel to Pakistan to become terrorists? The answer, in many cases, is Kashmir. A disproportionate number of Pakistanis living in Great Britain trace their lineage back to Kashmir. Though conventional wisdom holds that anger toward U.S. foreign policy is most responsible for creating new terrorists, among British Pakistanis,
Kashmir is probably just as important. What's more, for the small number of British Pakistanis who want terrorist training, the facilities of Kashmiri militant groups have become an obvious first choice--as well as a gateway to Al Qaeda itself.

Unfortunately, there are limits to what the British government can do alone. It will need help from moderate Muslims, some of whom are waking up to the threat posed by the radicals in their midst. "These people are ill," says Ghulam Rabbani, the imam of the mosque adjoining the Fitness Centre, where the Saviour Sect held meetings. "I say very categorically and very clearly that they are misguided and they don't know the basics of Islam."

Rabbani faces a steep challenge: According to a recent poll, a full quarter of British Muslims consider the 2005 London bombings justified. And anyone who doubts how dangerous the intersection of such sentiments, Al Qaeda, and Kashmiri militants can be should consider what became of Omar Sheikh, the former London School of Economics student who won his freedom on New Year's Eve in 1999: Two years later, he was under arrest for orchestrating the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

But before I found that (in the Herald initially) I had been reading this piece - h/t to ALD... which gives a similar but subtly different picture.
The connection between events in Bangladesh and the large Bangladeshi community in east London is intimate but not static. The influence of economic, political and generational change on the transformation of personal and public identities is profound. In particular, there has been a significant movement in recent years from alignment with secular politics as a vehicle of representation and empowerment towards Islamic-based organisation. An important element in this is that the British state has helped create and support this process through its funding policies and its application of a "multicultural" model of relating to and supporting community organisations in the area.

These issues – Islamic and Bengali identity, religion and culture, political struggle and political power – are very much alive in London's Bangladeshi diaspora, centred in the Tower Hamlets area. At their forefront are organisations such as the East London Mosque (author of conspicuous and effective Islamist initiatives) and the Shadinata Trust (a secular body that seeks to increase awareness of Bengali culture and history among British Bangladeshis).

The battle is an unequal one: the secular effort is faltering against the vibrancy and energy of the Islamists. One of the trust's primary objectives is to bring collaborators in the liberation war, some of whom live in Britain, to justice. For many young people in deprived Tower Hamlets, this is ancient history with no relevance to their lives: they regard Bangladeshi politics as distant and corrupt, and day-to-day issues of drugs, gangs and unemployment as far more relevant.

The Islamists, by contrast, are sophisticated and up-to-date in their focus and appeal. The East London Mosque (and its affiliate, the London Muslim Centre [LMC]) shares the ideology of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The mosque is no fringe organisation; it was at the centre of the campaign that helped elect the local Respect party candidate and vocal critic of Britain's New Labour government, George Galloway, in the 2005 general election.

A more persuasive argument relates to issues of discrimination and exclusion. Bengalis are among the poorest in Britain, and among those most exposed to racial discrimination. This is not new; but the response of the maturing third generation of indigenous British Bangladeshis is.

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, Bangladeshis in London used secular, socialist ideology to combat injustice – a system of thinking that could then still lay plausible claim to the future. There also remained at that time the option of return which sustains many migrants, who promise themselves they will go "home" when they have made enough money.

Today, most of those born in London still refer to Bangladesh as "home", but in practice Bengal is distant from their daily lives and probable futures. Within the community, Bengali secularists appear today as archaic as the political left. Islamic brotherhood is a more potent tool in the fight against discrimination.

The Islamists have managed both to articulate and project a persuasive political meta-narrative after 9/11, and to appeal to young people in east London by focusing on issues of drugs, crime and unemployment. Their local success is in part a consequence of the state-sanctioned ideas of multiculturalism which dominated society during their upbringing. They have been able to use, adapt and extend such ideas by taking them far from their "liberal" origin, and joining very different movements which yet proclaim the same objective of "equality".

The impulses and actions of what might in another age have been seen as working-class anger have thus acquired a more plausible emancipatory narrative in Islamic fundamentalism. Religion has been the agent of empowerment for many Muslims in the struggle against racism, imperialism and the extremes of capitalist inequality. That this has been facilitated by state funding along faith lines is a fact few are ready to confront.

The fight of secularists against racism and poverty appears bland compared to the ardent certainties of religion. In Bangladesh, secularists and the left have been marginalised and suppressed by the post-2001 ruling coalition. While the Bangladesh Nationalist Party – and George Galloway in London – seek to ride the Jamaat-e-Islami tiger for political gain, the prospects of this strategy for resolving the enduring questions of social justice, equality and diversity are dim. Jamaat and other fundamentalist groups are sowing the seeds of future conflict, as well as obscuring more hopeful and humane pathways to equity and harmony for Bengalis, in both Britain and Bangladesh.

A veritable feast for thought.

Ain't history fun!!

Over at Donklephant, Justin Gardner asks the question "Would the Republican Party be the same now if Goldwater had been elected President.

Ahh, the great imponderable "what-ifs" of history.

Where (and for that matter what...) would I be now had Goldwater been elected?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Why couldn't this be the FIRST alternative?

Reported this morning by the Herald that there might be talks on the release of the two Israelis.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking in a television interview, said also that if he had known Hizbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers would produce the 34-day war that ensued, he would never have sanctioned it.

Nasrallah told the privately owned Beirut television station New TV that Italy was trying to involve itself in contacts designed to bring a prisoner-swap, though he did not say how.

"The United Nations is interested and the negotiations would be through [Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih] Berri," Nasrallah said.

In Rome, the head of the defence committee of the Italian senate said he expected talks to begin this week.

Now I agree, there will be a lot of water to flow before anything really happens. Given the (very belated) acknowledgement of strategic reality by Nasrallah, I would guess that Israel's response is going to be short and to the point; like pointing upward with the second finger rather than the index. I also acknowledge that such a response would be justified for most circumstances. Have you heard the "but" here yet?

The Israelis for their part can not take the high ground either. Their campaign was totally unsuccessful, expensive, and has created far more diplomatic enemies than amis in the wider world (with the obvious exception of course).

There are parallels for such exchanges going back as far as the high points of the Cold War, and (without any specific knowledge) I would guess the same happened in WW2 as well. Those of us who remember the 50's and 60's should also remember the drama of the spy exchanges at Heidelburg Gate in Berlin.

I can not help the question.


Aside -

The very big concern that comes from this, and especially the acknowledgement by Nasrullah, is the comparative powerlessness of the Lebanon government. It is apparent that the Lebanese government is totally ineffectual, and many will delight in pointing that out once again.

My concern is not how the Lebanon government "appears". This is nothing more than everyone realising that the King in fact has no clothes.

The very big worry is that the international community allowed Lebanon to reach this sorry pass. There was "relief" when Syria invaded, because it gave "credible force" to defend Lebanon. There was "relief" when Syria agreed to withdraw, because it removed a primary cause of the tension in the Levant and gave a semblance of credibility to the Lebanon "government". There was "relief" when Israel invaded and occupied Southern Lebanon because "someone was doing something concrete about the attacks on Israel". There was "relief" when Israel agreed to withdraw as it gave a semblance of credibility to the Lebanon "government".

At no stage however did the welcome feelings of relief, or for that matter the feelings of concern that matters were getting out of control, EVER lead the international community to try and find meaningful and acceptable solutions to the problems at hand - viz. to ameliorate the plight of the Palestinians caused by the pogrom of 1947; to secure from Palestinians acknowledgement of Israel's right to exist; to solve the political stresses caused by the partition and immigrations. It was, has been ever since, far more important to satisfy the political and power ambitions of internal politics than to take rational solutions to solve the problems of the Levant. And for anyone who reads that, I mean EVERY NATION; not US, or Egypt, or France or Russia or Jordan, or Syria or Iran or Palestine or Israel.

How could the loss of control by the Lebanese government have been prevented? Probably inevitable given that one of Lebanon's "enemies" is Israel, and the other is Syria. Probably inevitable given that any action by Lebanon to restrict the Shi'a in the south would bring down the wrath of the Syrians - as it has already done. Probably inevitable given that any failure by Lebanon to restrict the Shi'a in the south would bring down the wrath of the Israelis - as it has already done.

So what can the international community do? In particular, what can the UN do?

Well, the UN has traditionally been in the "double damned" bind as well.

UN involvement has always been restricted to one side of the border.

UN involvement has always been limited to observation.

The right to self defence of UN sponsored forces has always been severely curtailed.

There has never been active right of enforcement of UN Resolutions.

As I have said previously the outcome of the present UN attempts will no doubt be "sad but true". And I think it equally a propos to question the reasons for that as well.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Good grief!! Here we go...

News in the Herald's column this afternoon saying that the Education Ministry has released "guidelines" on religious activities in schools.

To be fair, this is not something that is new.

Since 1877, participation in "religious studies" in schools has been "voluntary".

What that has meant (when I was at school) was you were not allowed to leave the room when les religieux took over for their hour per fortnight or whatever. It did not take long for those so inclined to realise it was a good opportunity for other non-disruptive activities such as doing one's homework, or finishing that essay that was needed the following period or just reading a good book.

But it looks like a long few weeks ahead as the lambs of god bleat their way through the iniquities of not being allowed to impose their religious beliefs on the (suspected) ungodly children in "their" schools.


By far the greatest reaction thus far has come from the Headmasters Association (what do you call a group of headmasters? A "superiority"? Suggestions welcomed), not as I expected from the god-botherers.

The "principal" (yep, pune intended) objection thus far is the law itself.

"How", the principal Principal asks, "does one distinguish between a religious prayer and a spiritual prayer? What does a school do when a child is killed in a road accident? Just carry on as if nothing has happened? Send round a note for parents to give permission for their kids to attend a memorial service including prayers?"

Another "killer" -

"Read our National Anthem. It includes an entreaty to 'God'. Does that make it a prayer? Are schools banned from teaching the National Anthem?"

The Ministry "has had numerous persistent objections from parents"... that turns out to be about one a week. O - K!

The Herald provides this summary of the concerns that schools have...

* Confusion about whether it's legally acceptable to provide access to voluntary groups to run lunchtime Bible clubs in schools.

* Religion creeping into secular life of schools through use of religious readings or hymns in assemblies.

* Teachers and principals leading observances, thereby creating the impression that student participation is not voluntary.

* Embarrassment and inappropriate alternative arrangements for students who opt out.

* Proselytising activities by school chaplains.

* Secondary schools are not bound by the secular requirements of the Education Act, but must comply with the anti-discrimination requirements of the Bill of Rights Act which does restrict use of religious practices


Also raised as part of the concern over religion in schools is the fact that NZ society is a whole heap more diverse than it was in 1964 when the current law was created I mean to say, it is no longer just a matter of the "believers", the "non-believers" and the "heathen". We now have Muslims, and Jews, and even (gasp!!) Baha'i and Bhuddists!!

So, apart from the fact that the ol' probligo thinks that too many people get more than a little precious about their interaction, or in this case their children's interaction, with wider society there is a case here and it is one in which I must be consistent.

The first point is a fundamental.
State schooling in NZ is totally secular

That is simple enough isn't it? Apparently for some it is not.

The second is the law.
That is the source of the fundamental. It does not prevent the private school based upon practice of a particular religion, nor the observance of religion in such a school. Hence we have schools that are attached to a synogogue, to a mosque, to an evangelical Christian college, there are private schools operated in the auspices of a Church movement, and I know of at least one instance where a state school was effectively hi-jacked by its local community and turned to a curriculum based solely upon their religious beliefs. (For those wondering about that last; it was the school at Oruaiti, in a strict Closed Brethren community).

The fundamental and the law apply only to those schools operated by the State.

That the "law" applies only to primary and intermediate schools is, of course, a fairly large red herring.

The fact that the Human Rights Act (our Bill of Rights) makes the proselytising of any religion through the State an illegal act is a parallel, not a contrary.

Complicating that "reasonably simple" picture is the advent of Kura Kaupapa. I have to be a little careful here as the Kura Kaupapa is one thing that I know little of; a quick research and impressions from the past ten or so years is all that I am going on. Kura (School - Maori-ised English) Kaupapa (I have in mind "tradition", but incorporating "explanation", "learning" and "meaning") are total immersion Maori language schools. A very large part of their teaching, their method and their curriculum is based upon Maori tradition including ceremony and spirituality.

And in that one word is another bridge between simplicity and complication.

But the consistency that I must satisfy is that of secularity. I have preached the importance of State secularity to such an extent that I would not be true to myself if I do not take this situation back to my own beliefs.

I want to preface this by stating, quite openly, that I have no "bother", no "problem", with religion. I am happy for other people to believe what they want, to have faith in whatever gives them hope and raison d'etre. Others prefer to view their world in terms of absolutes - of "same" and "not same", of "acceptable" and "not acceptable".

It becomes MY problem when they try impose those beliefs (whether by open proselytising or just simple expectation) on me.

I want to be clear here. I argue secularity in a way that is both partial (in that I take a side) and open (in that I allow others to have their part).

If a school (let us say the school where my children are attending) decides that the day will start with a hymn and a prayer in school assembly I am not going to be upset by it. I will tell my kids to behave with courtesy and respect.

When it gets to the point that their schooling is affected because they are not being taught in the same manner as any other student (because of their beliefs or lack thereof) then that does get my attention.

I say at this point that if my son or daughter were to tell me that they had taken up formal Christianity, or Islam, or Judaism, I might ask how much they had thought of the commitment they were making but I would make no move to dissuade them. (I mean they are both 30 now, but at the age of 12). I would draw the line at some of the more esoteric cults - there some parental guidance would be both justified and required. As it happens my daughter delights in telling of her experience (at the age of 14) in Queen St with a "very strange lot" who got her to do this test and then tried telling her that she was suicidal and a potential drug addict. My son tells of attending a Funeral Mass for the father of a good friend of his and finding the experience "interesting and very moving".

It comes to a matter of belief. That too is a fundamental.

If your belief is strong, it should not matter. If your belief is weak, can be influenced by others, then whose problem should that be?

I spent four years attending a State school where the Headmaster was a devout Anglican. He permitted (this was pre 1964) the local Lay preachers to conduct a monthly one hour period of "general religious instruction".

I spent the following three years attending a State school where the Headmaster was a very strong atheist. Was it illegal for him "to impose his beliefs upon the school by insisting that no religious teaching should be allowed"?

Is an atheist going to refuse to sing the National Anthem because it has reference to God in it? I personally use the excuse that I can not sing, but I am happy to recite both English and Maori versions.

That does not make me any more of a Christian than it does make me a monkey.

It is actually very simple -

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It just goes to show...

...the truth of the US right whinge.

The world-famous neo-neocon has, with the assistance of such wizards of technology as the old wasp (also known as Mr X and other appelations legal and otherwise) and friends, limited the right of free speech to only those who agree, confirm and perpetuate the "party line". I have seen it before from the likes of Mr Republican aka NoOne - charming gent that he is - about 5 or 6 years ago.

I, among many others I suspect, have been banned from posting comment at her site.

Well, when you see comment such as that which follows, who could give a stuff?
"Modeling Appropriate Behavior" will only go so far. the West has been doing this for centuries vis a vis Islam and it hasn't worked. How can anyone expect it to work now?

In confronting the Soviet Bloc during the cold war, NATO came up with the strategy of Combined Arms to make up for numerical inferiority.

And the portions of the West who still possess the will to resist Islamofascism will have to come up with a strategy for this struggle as well.

The opposition believes that in "not fearing death" they take away our strongest tool, deterrence, and force us into a corner. In characterizing the use of standoff weapons as "non proportional", "cowardly" or contrary to some illusionary "international Law" hope to take away the military advantage.

By forcing the West into playing the hand of the "Calculus of Death" they hope to achieve goals that they can't win militarily and they count on demographics to win the "Long War".

What they fail to see is that they are forcing Attrition Warfare on the West. They hope by asymmetrical attrition to break the will to resist. From the point of view of the West, It will be reverse attrition in that the US will not use superior numbers, the usual "attriting", but superior weapons systems. And, while we are developing more precision munitions, our most effective systems are area weapons and the most effective of all are the most fearsome of all.

If the West every "screws its courage to the sticking place" with the US anchoring it, the results could be very bad indeed.
senescentwasp | 08.21.06 - 1:34 pm | #


You could always just move the state of Israel to Florida.

If that seems crazy to you, you have some inkling of the arab grievance.
Anonymous | 08.21.06 - 1:53 pm | #


Whenever I hear the word "grievance" I cringe. "Arab grievance" then...
Zeno | 08.21.06 - 2:08 pm | #


Words and expressions that should be abolished under penalty of death:

root causes
cycle of violence
land for peace
religion of peace
disproportional reaction
violence only begets violence
"supposed" suicide bombers
peace in our time
Zeno | 08.21.06 - 2:13 pm | #


Oh, I meant "youths" and "Asians", of course.
Zeno | 08.21.06 - 2:14 pm | #


Anonymous at 8:21;
did you not read Neo's post, as usual? It is not a "grievance", it is a full blown psychosis. Even if the Jews abandoned Israel, Islam would find something else to "grieve" about.

It is perfectly obvious now to anyone but an ideologue or the willfully unseeing that this whole "grievance" industry is a sham and a cover for the struggle of Islam against the non-Islamic world.

Dumb comments such as yours give you a continuing reason to remain anonymous.
Senescent Wasp | 08.21.06 - 2:17 pm | #


Zeno makes the point that Iranians are not Arabs. It is also true, I think, that the majority of Jews and all Arabs are racially similar, i.e. Semites. The factor that separates them is religion; Judaism against Islam. Moslems kill in the name of their god but they do not kill only Jews, they kill other infidels; Islam against Christianity. The Jews seem not to want to kill Christians although some Christians are brought up to hate Jews.

If Moslems persist in killing peoples of the religions different from their own and necessarily doing it for religious reasons, then those who are attacked must ultimately declare war on Islam as a whole. No collateral damage in a declared war, just dead enemies.
George Warburton | 08.21.06 - 4:55 pm | #


One of the problems with what we are allowed to do in this type of conflict is that the line between civilian and combatant isn't very clear.

I'm not just talking the uniformed vs ununiformed stuff, but is the banker that funnels millions into Hizbolla a valid target? IMO he is WAY more valuable a target that people launching rockets - yet he is off limits for specific targeting as a civilian.

The samething goes for Iran and Syria being the puppet masters for groups like Hizbolla. Treat them like they are - we do that in organised crime here. The crime boss is just as guilty as the guy that pulled the trigger, yet in this case there are excuse after excuse as to why we shouldn't.

We are going about it the hardest way you can. We are allowing the enemy to pick what, when, where, how, and whom we fight. It doesn't take a brilliant tactician to realise that is a recipie for failure. The only saving grace we have is that we are so much more powerful than them that we can sustain the loss and still win.

I also think our enemies greed and drive will eventually go far enough that enough people will decide to ignore the anti-war crowd (I think a great many of them will never be swayed no matter what).
strcpy | 08.21.06 - 5:02 pm | #


WW3 has already begun but has taken place so far with the enemy using a technique and operating at a level at which the Western world cannot respond. Only Great Britain, Australia, Israel and the US have a significant constituency(of which this blog is a part)which perceive the reality. All the rest are captured by the anti-American/anti-Jew currents that sweep the banks of world-wide public opinion.

It has become more important to tweak the noses of the Jews and the Americans than to take steps for survival. To experience the giddy, self-righteous thrill of seeing those you envy and hate coming to harm or being shamed. Always time to take care of those pesky terrorists later after a bit of fun watching the US and the Jews get their just desserts. And of course there are counterparts, strong and influential, within the borders of the US and Israel.

Right now in Israel the supporters of the home-grown Israeli anti-war crowd are evidently beginning to comprehend certain realities. Several thousand rockets can do that. Getting one-sided, rigged and staged coverage from the MSM can also convince. The anti-war folks in the US are not yet at that threshold of consciousness. Many lives might be saved by taking strong actions now but their imaginations are not yet up to the task.

I don’t think the enemy wants to pull off a truly large-scale action in the West. The enemy walks a fine line: Kill just enough to keep anti-war crowd uneasy and wanting to mollify but not so much that pro-war elements could take vigorous reaction. The embassy take-over, the London and Madrid bombings, 9/11, Mogadishu, the barracks in Lebanon, all the relatively low-grade murder that has taken place to date, to our clever enemy the West’s reaction to all these were like a chemist’s litmus. As long as Iran doesn’t mount an invasion of the US Iran knows they have nothing to worry about. Iran and Syria are now seeing how far they can go with Israel. They are finding out that they can wage war on Israel as long as they use their proxy terrorist militias. For now they must be content with thousands; time for tens of thousands, or millions, after the West has been rendered helpless.

Soon Iran will have a nuclear weapon. Once obtained it will give them the leverage to raise oil prices; the Saudis, who have resisted so far, would have to go along. The Saudis currently kill a lot of terrorists but that would end, with the Saudi rulers accommodating the terrorists or more likely overthrown with the help of Iran. Once Iran could use the economic option(raising the price of oil), the nukes would need to be used as a threat only to their neighbors. The West could easily be manipulated with the oil, playing Western countries and others like China off one another because the oil is absolutely necessary for their economies. The beginning of the Great Caliphate.

grackle | 08.21.06 - 6:28 pm | #


About Israeli "peace activists", the less is said the better. They care only about Israeli lives, not about Lebanese or Palestinian lives.

Peace Now and others in the Israeli "peace camp", suffer from a severely blinkered vision. You might want to take a look at the article by Yitzhak Laor (who lives in Tel Aviv) in the current _London Review of Books_ (LRB):

"In Israel there is still no proper history of our acts in Lebanon. Israelis in the peace camp used to carry posters with the figure '680' on them – the number of Israelis who died during the 1982 invasion. Six hundred and eighty Israeli soldiers. How many members of that once sizeable peace camp protested about the tens of thousands of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian casualties? Isn't the failure of the peace camp a result of its inability to speak about the cheapness of Arab blood?"

-- Yitzhak Laor in London Review of Books (click the link below): laor01_.html

Richard | 08.21.06 - 8:56 pm | #


grackle wrote: I don’t think the enemy wants to pull off a truly large-scale action in the West. The enemy walks a fine line: Kill just enough to keep anti-war crowd uneasy and wanting to mollify but not so much that pro-war elements could take vigorous reaction. The embassy take-over, the London and Madrid bombings, 9/11, Mogadishu, the barracks in Lebanon, all the relatively low-grade murder that has taken place to date, to our clever enemy the West’s reaction to all these were like a chemist’s litmus.

grackle, the fallacy in what you said consists in this: you seem to think that there is ONE mastermind somehow co-ordinating all these attacks and carefully determining/modulating their intensity. However, all the evidence so far indicates that many (most) of these attacks are carried out by separate groups acting on their own. Also, the Lebanese militants are Shia and are completely distinct from the Sunni al-Qaeda, and seem to have very different agendas and goals.
Charlemagne | 08.21.06 - 9:19 pm | #


"About Israeli "peace activists", the less is said the better. They care only about Israeli lives, not about Lebanese or Palestinian lives."

Oh, for the love of God, grow up.
harry | 08.21.06 - 9:56 pm | #


grackle, the fallacy in what you said consists in this: you seem to think that there is ONE mastermind somehow co-ordinating all these attacks and carefully determining/modulating their intensity.

A “mastermind” isn’t necessary. The enemy in WW2 had no “mastermind” and this new enemy is no different.

However, all the evidence so far indicates that many (most) of these attacks are carried out by separate groups acting on their own.

“Separate groups” perhaps. But “acting on their own”? None of the terrorist groups would be much of a problem if they were “acting on their own.” If they were acting on their own instead of being used by clever Islamofascist nations to wage war by proxy, they could be easily countered. These are not gangs like the Mafia.

Also, the Lebanese militants are Shia and are completely distinct from the Sunni al-Qaeda, and seem to have very different agendas and goals.

Here again, “completely distinct” perhaps to another Muslim but “very different agendas and goals”? The agenda is always the same - they all want to terrorize. They all want to kill us, which should be the only significant goal to a Westerner. They all want to wipe out Israel, which I think may be kind of an important similarity if you are an Israeli.

grackle | 08.21.06 - 10:12 pm | #


"A “mastermind” isn’t necessary. The enemy in WW2 had no “mastermind” and this new enemy is no different."

Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini - ring any bells? They were the masterminds for the Axis during WWII.

Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin - Any bells ringing, yet? These guys were the masterminds for the Allies during WWII.

They were mostly political, though. How 'bout militarily? Eisenhower, MacArthur, Montgomery, Bradley, Nimitz, Rommel, Yamamoto are just some of the military masterminds of WWII that come quickly to mind. There are so many more. However, all of the military masterminds answered to their civilian masters.

Charlemagne is far more correct than most folks think. There is no central authority in Islam except the god (al'lah.) The Koran is the word of the god and Mo'profit is his mouthpiece.

Mo'profit supplied a blueprint for Islamic warfare. Al'Qaida and Laden established a functional modern doctrine of Islamic asymmetrical warfare.

With the internet and the wide disperssion of terror information, open source terrorism is the strategy du jour. Anyone can be a terrorist today, if they are willing to put in the time. And no terrorist need answer to any civilian mastermind; they all answer only to the god.

Until the west comes to the realization that the ideology of suicidal Islam cannot be fought by traditional rules, and finds our Custer, Patton, Rommel, Grant, Sherman, or Attila, soldier masterminds willing to fight beyond the rules, the best we can hope for is dhimmitude.
Indigo Red | Homepage | 08.22.06 - 12:07 am | #


Cluster bombs.
troutsky | Homepage | 08.22.06 - 12:22 am | #


To deal with a situation like this, you have to go back to first principles.

What is it the enemy wants? That's easy, they want the destruction of Israel. But what is it the they want more than the destruction of Israel? You have to find that out, and make it clear that if the war continues, then they lose the thing they value more than Israel's destruction -- AND Israel survives anyway.

Some suggestions:

The Geneva Convention sets forth rules of warfare between civilized combatants. Israel needs to publicly break all those rules, quite conspicuously. In particular, those who don't wear uniforms and bear arms openly need to be executed, on the spot, by hanging with swine leather.

Arabs, and Muslims generally, want respect. This must be denied them. 'You want to surrender? Good. You can start by crawling forward with your face in the dirt, and begging for mercy. But wait a moment, we have to set up the camera first.'

The leaders talk tough, but don't risk their lives. Israel must go after them. I explicitely include the governments of Syria and Iraq.

No more smart bombs against rocket launchers. Carpet bomb any site where rockets were launched from. Use fuel-air explosives and napalm. 'What, you say the village was full of women and children, and we killed 90% of them, and the rest are in a hospital. We're sorry. Please tell us which hospital, and we'll kill everyone there too.'

The Muslims want their paradise. So, issue the troops hollow point bullets with lard inside the hollow points -- 'Not only are we going to kill you, we are going to defile you first.'

Israeli intelligence needs to find those imams preaching the destruction of Israel, and put smart bombs through the doors of the mosque in the middle of the sermons. Bomb one filled with pig urine or lard or pork, to contaminate everyone and everything in there. Bomb two to kill everyone inside. And THEN, after everyone in the mosque is dead, carpet bomb or shell the neighborhood on general principles. 'Yes we know they were probably all non-combatants. That's WHY we killed them.'

The Muslims of southern Lebanon value their land. Ruin it. I'm talking building a small nuclear power plant and a pipe line, pumping sea water uphill, then evaporating the water, so that what is left is too salt to grow anything.

Arabs value their families and clans. Start making it a point to find a fighter's entire clan, and kill all of them, or sell them into slavery.

Also needs t
Stephen M. St. Onge | Homepage | 08.22.06 - 12:38 am | #


Hmm, somehow the end of the post got chopped off. As I was saying:

As for the international news media, they should be treated as enemy combatants too. 'You want to live? Good. Crawl forward etc.'

Most importantly, no peace talks, truces, any let up except with those who start, by announcing publicly, in Arabic, that Israel has the right to exist in its present borders, before Israel even acknowledges their existance.

Hez'bollah and its ilk do not grant Israel a moral right to live. Israel must deny the same to them. It's time for Israel to play by the Hama rules.
Stephen M. St. Onge | Homepage | 08.22.06 - 12:42 am | #


WWII has absolutely nothing to do with anything. "the pullout from Lebanon six years ago ,and the more recent withdrawal from Gaza ,led to a moment of clarity.." Please,does anyone here think starving Gaza while continuing to build settlements on the West Bank was an honest attempt at creating a lasting peace with Palestinians? While building a Wall which separated villages, while maintaining checkpoints, while destroying homes etc etc ? Ludicrous , and yet every one of you will insist Israel did everything it could.( not you Richard) Shebba Farms? Golan Heights? Moment of clarity all right.Try reading something by Rabbi Michael Lerner, or try Sabbeel, a Christian Palestinian organization before you are totally irrelevant.
troutsky | Homepage | 08.22.06 - 12:57 am | #

Pass over the derision poured on the anonymous contributor. (By the way Waspie, it is not me and you know it). It will be interesting to see how much longer troutsky lasts as a commenter (that is not me either Waspie, and you know it).

No, the fascinating thing about all of the outpourings of frustrated rage and impotent rhetoric is its lack of originality.

For goodness sake, the opening gambit has to include a link to explain "Behaviour Modelling", which reference is then lost in the tirade of justifying the use of sophisticated weaponry in order to enforce the "will of the US".

We are given a list of terms the use of which should be punishable by death? We have the inevitable comparisons with WW2 and the "appeasement" of the 1930's, we even have declaration of WW3 yet.

We face a future (if we are to believe these people) of religious dominance by Islam, of the power of the mullah, of the removal of freedoms.

I read people such as neo-neocon, right, wing-nut, the Belmont Club and even all things beautiful and many of their blog-links not for the entertainment value (the right wingnut has that in spades) but so that I can try to get a handle on the other enemy.

There is a common thread that runs through all of those sites. It has little do do with politics or even truth. Read the anger. Read the frustration. Read the impotence.

For as much as Islam fundamentalism is an enemy of freedom, so too is the US right whinge. There is no real interest in freedom. Their only interest is in the imposition of their own beliefs upon the rest of the world. They are driven. They are driven not by what is right. The force is the common fear. The paranoia of difference. The psychosis that comes from not being able to understand, to comprehend difference. They demand uniformity - of thought, of belief, of action.

Exactly the same motivations as they accuse their enemy.

I mean to say, how unreasonable is THAT!!

The Herald this morning has a first rate write up on the problems behind the formation of the peacekeeping force for Lebanon.

In France itself, signs of doubt surfaced abruptly last week, when at the last minute Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie stepped back from announcing, as had been expected, that France would send 3500 troops.
the UN must spell out what Unifil is expected to do, give it the means to intervene if need be as well as the right to defend itself.

While the UN hammers out these rules, France has sent only 200 personnel from an engineering division.

"You have to tell the troops why they are there. To support the Lebanese army, certainly, but to what extent? In what fields? Secondly, we also need to know what the material and judicial means at our disposal are," Alliot-Marie said.

"You can't send in men and tell them: 'Look at what is going on [but] you don't have the right to defend yourselves or shoot'."

It is like I have said before - what would happen to the person from UNIFIL who authorised the shoot-down of an F-16 heading north over the border?

Any takers?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Lebanon today...

Despite what is being said in the right-whinge blogspots that I tiptoe my way through, the "Israeli attack/Israeli enforcement" action over the past 36 hours is not really where the action is, or should be.

Of the news sources that I have read this morning, the following are closer to the important events -

The Strategy Page
Greece said it was considering a request to provide soldiers for the new UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon.

Turkey is also considering joining the force. Turkish sources said that Turkey could send as many as 5000 troops to southern Lebanon. The big question for Turkey is the ROE (rules of engagement) of the UN force. Turkey is not interested in provoking a wider war in the Middle East.

However, the Turkish military does not look favorably on conditions which expose its troops to hostile fire and restricts their ability to respond. The Turks' interpretation of the UN's ROE in south Lebanon may be a useful indicator of just how robust that ROE truly is. Turkey is also regarded as an ally of Israel. The US would like to see Turkey participate in the UN-led peacekeeping force.

The International Herald Tribune -
Under the proposed rules of engagement, the troops may use force to prevent the area from being used for hostile activities and to resist efforts to prevent the peacekeepers from carrying out duties under Security Council resolutions. Commanders may take all necessary and appropriate action in self-defense, including pre-emptive self-defense in cases where there is adequate evidence that hostile units are committed to an immediate attack.

"We keep telling the member states: Read the concept of operations," said one UN official. "Read the rules of engagement. We have come a long way from the days of Unprofor in Bosnia," the official said, referring to the UN forces deployed in the Balkans.
U.S. officials have said they will support the mission, but that no American ground combat forces will be offered. A senior Pentagon planner said that since America is a staunch ally of Israel, the presence of U.S. ground troops in Lebanon could serve as a magnet for Hezbollah attacks, undermining the mission.

Major General William Nash, who retired from active duty after service that included commanding U.S. Army forces in Bosnia in 1995 and 1996, warned that the new mission risks being taken hostage: physically taken hostage by Hezbollah, and made a political hostage by Israel.

"We know what they're not going to do, but what will they do?" said Nash, now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"They're not going to disarm Hezbollah. But are they going to stop Israel from reattacking Hezbollah? If the Israeli government decides there is an imminent threat, and attacks with F-16s, what is the mandate for the UN? What does the UN do?"

Major General Nash has that right. If past precedent holds good there would be little to do except duck!

We have seen the first instance already - the attack in the Bekaa Valley, and as yet there has been no direct evidence to support the Israeli reason for the attack - "to disrupt the shipment of arms to Hezbollah". If that were the case, why did Israel not bomb Beirut airport again?

Oh, sorry, they had the assassination of a leading member of Hezbollah as their objective?

What is next, bringing peace and democracy to Lebanon?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

An apology

to those who might be trying to contact the probligo by email.

Over the past three weeks I have been unable to "contact" my email account at yahoo. The reason for this is unknown but suspected. I have neither the time nor the inclination to take up the cudgels with Yahoo. They do a good job in providing the service. They probably have had enough playing around with my affairs from the suspected cause of the problem.

Suffice it to say that over the past three weeks I have been subjected to -

Frequent and persistant ping attacks in an attempted DOS. My IP has been very good in filtering these out.

Two persistant and repeated spyware attacks, with the alias address of the cookies pegging to a "restricted site" in the USofA. It is one of those attacks which I suspect has obtained my password to the email account. Yeah I got careless. My fault.

So the can of champagne is to sit tight for another week or so and see if this pest loses interest. He must be fascinated by the flow of mail from FFers, from discus=launch and from the other rc sites I inhabit.

If that doesn't do the trick, then another mailbox will be provided.

In the meantime - use the comments here as a mailbox for anything urgent. I will keep an eye on it and reply personally to those who warrant it and can be trusted.

The first notes of spring...

Heard the first shining cuckoo of the season this afternoon. I suspect that he might be heading north again by Tuesday.

Weather yesterday and today has been fine and warm. It has just started raining in the past ten minutes or so, with the promise of a SW change tomorrow bringing a cold few days into next weekend.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Laptop terrorists?

How long before carrying laptops with batteries on aircraft is completely banned?

E mate, Te Arikinui Dame Te Ata I Rangi Kaahu

One of Maoridom's principal leaders died yesterday afternoon.

A sad day today.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On the matter of tattoo...

Ben Harper (the blues man) is a fairly frequent visitor to these shores. His last visit, a few weeks back, was recorded for tv news/doco. This is why -

Now Harper might not be the "bluesman" of my choice but I have one heck of a lot of respect for him.

His moko is being created by a young chap here in Auckland. It is a work in progress, as one might expect. The moko form is (as I understand it) a modern translation of the traditional forms.

My respect for Harper comes from his reply to just one question. The interviewer asked if he would get full facial moko. Harper's reply was "That would be a very big step. I would certainly not ask. It would need to be offered by the right people."

(Eye-catcher - why is he wearing a shirt featuring the Aussie flag?)

Monday, August 14, 2006

The complete set...

And before anyone screams about the juxtaposition, just think a little...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Taking a culture for gain -

I have posted previously, here, about the taking of live cultural icons and symbols for commercial gain.

Well, we have another instance.

Now please may I be clear.

This is NOT a case of cultural cringe.

It might rank with marketing a "Bush mask" for Halloween, or with the "Indian suits" that were the rage in the 1950's. For that reason alone the " redress..." consequence is to be expected.

Perhaps what I DO hope for, probably in vain, is that some of those kids whose doting parents buy rubbish like this might take a little time out to read something of the culture that lies behind Ta Moko. From Herald's article -
Ms Mead said the issue was one of ethics and respect.

"This comes down to being respectful of other cultures so you don't cut and paste, pick and choose. A moko comes with a story and a past, and you have to know that."

Ngahihi o te ra Bidois, head of Te Pakaro A Ihenga school at the Waiariki Institute of Technology, said ta moko wasn't scary and the American kits weren't appropriate.

"They obviously don't realise the mana associated with this type of taonga (treasure)," Mr Bidois told the Rotorua Post.

He said he has emailed Halloween Town asking for the kits to be withdrawn from sale.

"It is insulting...what they are doing is not portraying Maori correctly," he said.

Te Arawa's Hawea Vercoe said ta moko had northing to do with Halloween, and was "a mark of mana and prestige, not to be used flippantly for commercial creation".

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said Maori would not allow their culture to be exploited.

"We are not about to have pumpkins or people decorated with our traditional symbols, all for the purposes of a trick or a treat. The treat in fact, is to treat people with respect," he said.

I want to repeat just a couple of the thoughts in those quotes as they need to be emphasised.

First, the permission to wear moko is earned. It is a reflection of the person wearing it. The greater the mana, the standing, the importance, the public reputation of the person, the more complex his moko might be.

Second, the moko reflects, is structured upon the story of the person's mana - the deeds, the events, the ancestry of the person.

So, ta moko is not just tattoos scribbled on the face.

As a matter of interest I have met only one man, when I was about 7, who carried the traditional ta moko. He, along with some of the kuia in the same district, would have been one of the last survivors.

The traditional Ta moko is not entirely like the western "tattoo" at all. There are many similarities, but one extremely important difference. If you look carefully at a traditional moko, it appears "grooved". That grooving is real. Quite apart from the lines which are "drawn" using a toothed comb, the grooves are created using a chisel to remove the skin.

Oh and the colours of the traditional ta moko were difficult to discerne. The black was obviously very fine ground charcoal; the red was very dark and came from very finely ground ochre; and there is a very dark green which was extracted from a dried fungus that parasitises a native caterpillar. The modern dyes used are altogether much brighter.

To close -

There is no legal protection of culture. There is no means of preventing products like this from being sold. As I pointed out in my previous post it is only by persuasion (as in the Ford case) and concession that products get withdrawn.

But to get an inkling of how I feel, think of someone printing a picture of the Crucifixion or Mary on toilet paper and selling that. How long would such a product - or the manufacturer for that matter - last?

I hope, just hope, that the "manufacturers" of this cultural travesty provide indelible markers instead of water-based.

Well I never!!

I have been reading, with some considerable respect, the writings of TFStern for some while now. There are interesting and strong differences in our beliefs and politics, but thus far we have treated each other with mutual respect.

So, if TFS does come this way and read this I want him to know that what follows is not at all intended as criticism or insult at a personal level; I understand the depth of his beliefs to even consider that. But I am considerably surprised by one of his latest posts.

Perhaps someone might like to enlighten me as to why a Church might make such a directive, might insist upon its observance.

Equally to the point, what difference does facial hair or the lack of it make to a man's beliefs and his character? If a religion were to "legislate" against cutting a mans hair or beard, would a bald man be able to hold to his faith? Would he be allowed to hold to his faith?

TF, I respect your compliance with your Church's request. I think I prefer the "before" to the "after".

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Historic - indeed!

To all of those who can not understand how an organisation like Hezbollah gets to hold the power it has in Southern Lebanon, think on this small article for a bit...
Lebanon's proposal to deploy 15,000 troops in the south of the country alongside an international force is historic. The Lebanese people have waited 40 years for such a symbolic gesture from their government, and Beirut hopes this will tip the scales in its favour at the UN.

That's right folks - it is FORTY YEARS since the government of Lebanon took anything more than a casual disregard for events in the south of its own bailiwick.
Lebanon's prime minister Fouad Siniora was near to tears earlier in the week as he spoke to Arab foreign ministers and obtained almost unanimous Arab League support, however Syria remains opposed to the disarming of Hizbollah. The others support the Lebanese troop deployment in the south, even Hizbollah's two ministers within Prime Minister Siniora's government. "Two council members representing Hizbollah agreed to it. For us it is very clear. There is an unanimity in the country about giving the Lebanese army a chance to exercise its duty and responsibility," said Lebanon's UN special envoy Tarek Mitri.

Now, I can understand Syria (Note - NOT Iran) getting just a little twitchy about losing control of Hezbollah, or at least losing contact. What pleases me is that the Hezbollah representatives in the Lebanese parliament favour the deployment of the Lebanese Army.

On the other hand, NYT (as lead, the quote is International Herald Tribune) quotes the action as being seen as "largely symbolic". There is truth in that, given the comparative capabilities of the Lebanese and Israeli armies.
The proposal was widely perceived as a largely symbolic maneuver that would answer a demand by the international community for Lebanon to secure its southern border, which is now controlled by Hezbollah, and Israel dismissed the overture.

Ghazi Aridi, Lebanon's information minister, said the proposed deployment underscores the government commitment to a negotiated cease-fire. "The army is ready and this is not empty speak," said Aridi, who announced the measure Monday after a late-night Cabinet meeting

Should the international community accept Lebanon's word, and intentions, at face value?

I would love to say "YES" with heartfelt enthusiasm. I can not. I have that uneasy, tense feeling in my gut as the names Sabra and Shatila resound in my mind.

I wait. I wait. Please, Lebanon, prove my fears are ill-founded.

Monday, August 07, 2006

... of our own destruction.

On 18 April, 1996, an Israeli "defensive" military action included the intensive shelling of the Lebanon village of Qana.

The Shelling of Qana took place on April 18, 1996 in Qana, a village located southeast of Tyre, in Southern Lebanon, when Israeli artillery, returning fire against Hezbollah forces in the area, hit a Fijian United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL) compound in the village. Around 800 Lebanese civilians had taken refuge there to escape the fighting, of whom 106 were killed and around 116 others injured. Four UNIFIL soldiers were also seriously injured. [1][2]

The incident took place amid heavy fighting between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah during "Operation Grapes of Wrath". Israeli, U.N. and U.S. officials accused Hezbollah of using civilian refugees as human shields by opening fire from positions near the UN compound. The incident is at times referred to as the Qana massacre, for example by Human Rights Watch[3], but this phrase is rejected by Israel and its supporters. The United Nations miltary investigation determined it was unlikely that Isreali shelling of the U.N. compound was the result of technical or procedural errors.[4
The conflict intensified and thousands of Lebanese civilians sought to flee the area and find safe refuge from the fighting. By 14 April, 745 people were occupying the United Nations compound at Qana. More than 800 were there on April 18.[9]

Beginning with the second day of combat Israel had been retaliating within 10 minutes directly at any source of fire discovered by reconnaisance. This tactic was widely discussed in Israeli media, and well known to the Hezbollah fighters and Lebanese citizens.

According to a U.N. report, on April 18, Hezbollah fighters fired two or three Katyusha rockets and between five and eight mortars at Israeli soldiers near the so-called Red Line (the northern limits of the "security zone") from positions about 220 meters southwest and 350 meters southeast of the United Nations compound. 15 minutes later an Israeli unit responded by shelling the area with M-109A2 155 mm guns.[10] According to the Israeli military, thirty eight shells were fired, two-thirds of them equipped with proximity fuses, an anti-personnel mechanism that causes the weapon to explode above the ground. The UN investigation found that 13 shells exploded within or above the compound and 4 "very close to it."[11]

As a result of the shelling, 106 civilians died, with more wounded. Most of the casualties were residents of nearby villages who had fled the conflict, while four were UN troops.

Response of Israel

Israel immediately expressed regret for the loss of innocent lives, saying that the Hezbollah position and not the UN compound was the intended target of the shelling, and that the compound was hit "due to incorrect targeting based on erroneous data." Army Deputy Chief of Staff, Matan Vilnai stated that the shells hit the base not because they were off target, but because Israeli gunners used outdated maps of the area. He also stated that the gunners miscalculated the firing range of the shells.

Prime Minister Shimon Peres claimed that "We did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise."[12] Following the attack, Lt.-Gen. Amnon Shahak, Israel's chief of staff, at a press conference in Tel Aviv on April 18 defended the shelling: "I don't see any mistake in judgment… We fought Hezbollah there [in Qana], and when they fire on us, we will fire at them to defend ourselves… I don't know any other rules of the game, either for the army or for civilians…"[13].

Both the U.S. and Israel accused Hezbollah of "shielding", the use of civilians as a cover for military activities, which is a breach of the laws of war. The U.S. State Department spokesperson, Nicolas Burns stated, "Hezbollah [is] using civilians as cover. That's a despicable thing to do, an evil thing."[14] and Prime Minister Shimon Peres cited the use of human shielding to blame Hezbollah. On April 18 he said, "They used them as a shield, they used the UN as a shield — the UN admitted it."[15] Rabbi Yehuda Amital, a member of Peres' cabinet, called the Qana killings a desecration of God's name (chilul hashem).[16]

The Israelis "miss" their targets by some two or three hundred yeards.

Being within two or three hundred yards is "shielding behind civilians"?

There is a very interesting op-ed piece in Granny Herald this morning. It is written by Catheringe Masters and is an "interview" with David Khouri, a New Zealander of Lebanese descent who has spent three years in Israel.
When Khouri heard of last month's attack on Qana, where scores of people died, including children, he was sickened. "If I feel this upset here in NZ then I think the people who are in Lebanon must be incandescent with anger and hatred and wanting revenge," he says softly.

"That's where I can't understand how Israel can be so short-sighted. What do they think is going to happen next?
People need to remember the brutality of Israel's 18-year occupation, says Khouri.

In the town of Khiam, now virtually obliterated in the current war, the Israelis had a jail where they kept Hizbollah prisoners. It was abandoned when they pulled out in 2000 and Khouri remembers watching scenes of jubilation on the television as relatives broke in and released their family members.

Hizbollah did not exist before the Israeli invasion. "They are not different people who hide weapons under the beds of civilians, they are the same people. Israel's occupation brought Hizbollah into existence and the organisation is the only thing stopping the Israelis from coming back", he says.

What attracted my eye was this comparison...
Hizbollah, says Khouri, are the tangata whenua of southern Lebanon defending their turangawaewae, the place where they stand.

"That's what it is. The Palestinians are the same. And all the attempts by Israel and the Americans and the British to call them terrorists is an attempt to obscure that reality, that they are the tangata whenua."

Hizbollah are Shiite Muslims who live in the south of Lebanon. Khouri says history shows the Shiites were always ignored by the central Government, they were the poor relations of the south, deprived and without developed social services.

"I think that if Iran provided financial assistance as well as religious training then it met a need of the people that was not being met elsewhere

The Maori word "whenua" is interchangeable in meaning between "people" and "land". "Tangata" also means "people", but is specific rather than general in application. So, "tangata whenua" takes on a very potent metaphorical meaning as "the people of this land".

As important, and somewhat glossed over is the meaning of "turangawaewae". His given meaning of "where I stand" is a correct useage, but it goes somewhat further than that. It is "the place where my being connects to my whenua", it is where I am attached to the land; it is "where I come from" in the figurative sense if not the physical. To give as an example I was born in Lower Hutt, so that could (if I were Maori) be my turangawaewae. But if my parents were from Taranaki and East Cape then I could equally choose either - it would be the place where I felt "connected". Personally, I have a very close affinity with a small village in the East Coast ranges where my father taught for two years.

I hope that makes the language a little clearer, because Khouri's comparison is so apt.

I say it again -

There is no more justification in the actions of Hezbollah than there is legitimacy in the actions of Israel. Neither is there any less.

To argue that Hezbollah has no right to fight, is to say that the Muslims of Southern Lebanon have no right to defend themselves.

To argue that Hezbollah attacked first is to ignore all of the history of the war between Israel and Lebanon. Never has there been any revocation of that state of war. Never has there been an equitable ceasefire.

To argue that Hezbollah is an "external terrorist organisation", is no different to arguing that Tino Rangatiratanga is an arm of the Chinese Peoples Party or the Australian Aborigine Freedom Association. The statement is wrong. As Khouri has said, Hezbollah IS the people of South Lebanon.

Lebanon has never made any meaningful defence of the people of the South. The massacres of Sabra and Shatila in 1982 and again in 1985 shows that neither Israel nor Lebanon wish to have responsibility for those who were expelled from MSOI in 1947/48.

Neither has the international community ever recognised the people of South Lebanon as anything other than a "Lebanese problem". That should be as much to our shame as "civilised" people as Dafur.

As Khouri says, if support comes from Syria or Iran for these forgotten people it should be of no surprise. It should be no more surprising that support is accepted with no less gratitude by the people of Southern Lebanon, than US aid for Israel is received in that country.

We, the west, have created our own enemy.

We have sown that enemy in inequity, in suppression, and in neglect.

Our crop has been 40 years and more in the growing.

We are reaping the harvest.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sowing the seeds...

...of future destruction.

Do you think these will be deployed on the Israeli side of the border?

- No

Do you think that the IDF will tell any peacekeeping force where they are?

- No. To be fair, the IDF will tell any peacekeeping force where they are NOT, so that the peacekeeping force will be confined to specific and defined areas.