April 30, 2003
Road to Nowhere

Ha'aretz reports that

United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer presented Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with the 'road map' to Middle East peacemaking ...

The road map, backed by the Quartet (comprised of the U.S., European Union, Russia, and the United Nations) was released hours after the swearing-in ceremony of reformist Abu Mazen and his cabinet

(It was also hours after a representative of Abu Mazen's Fatah "party" detonated himself a couple of doors away from the US embassy in Tel Aviv, killing a number of innocent people. If that's not a good enough reason to move the embassy to Jerusalem, I'm not sure what is. But I digress)

Whatever the specific details of the "road map", does it not seem ironic that, apart from the United States, the members of the "Quartet" are:

a) Russia, the same country that gave the world the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the words "pogrom" and "refusenik"

b) The European Union, which not only funded the PA, but is also the successor to the various states that perpetrated the Holocaust

c) The United Nations -- the "Zionism is Racism" people.

Of course, the EU is not Nazi Germany, and today's Russia is not the same as Tsarist Russia or Soviet Russia. (The UN, on the other hand, is no better than it was in 1975). Either way, it's hard to imagine that many Israelis would look to Russia, France/Germany, and the United Nations to guarantee their security. Would you?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:29 AM
Is Oil a Violent Mineral?

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on UC Berkeley geography professor Michael Watts, who just won a Guggenheim award to pursue his research into the "correlation" between oil and violence.

Watts says "Oil is a very peculiar commodity," that seems to "engender violence in those places where it is produced."

When the Earth bleeds oil, why do humans spill blood?

Why is "black gold" a common link in many of the worst conflicts of our time -- the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and mass violence spanning the globe from Colombia to Nigeria?

Before we go any further, allow me to make the following observations:

a) Alberta is no more violent than Manitoba; Norway is no more violent than Sweden; Scotland is no more violent than Wales; Texas is no more violent than New Mexico; Alaska is no more violent than Hawaii

b) Rwanda, Cambodia, Lebanon, Bosnia and Liberia do not have noticeable quantities of oil, but they have had noticeable quantities of violence.

I'm tempted to conclude that something other than oil is at work here -- like, maybe a coincidence that some of the world's oil reserves happen to be located in some of the places that also happen to have terrible social problems? Nevertheless, it shouldn't be much of a surprise to see all kinds of bogus theories that it's "all about the O-O-O-I-L" coming from disreputable 1970s-era Marxist pseudo-scholars.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:57 AM
April 29, 2003
Courtesy of the Washington Post

The Washington Post website, like many news websites, has a feature that lets you send someone an e-mail with a link to an article from the site. Every once in a while some anonymous troll will use this method to e-mail me an article about Israel, along with some obnoxious comment describing Israel as a Nazi state. Today, Holocaust Remembrance Day, I received such an e-mail by way of the Washington Post, with a link to this story about the latest suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Above the story was a line of boilerplate from the WaPo ("You have been sent this message from adrag1@msn.com as a courtesy of the Washington Post") followed by a personalized greeting from the troll:

Another freedom fighter strikes a blow to end the illegal occupation by the jackbooted thugs of the neo-nazi IDF. Let freedom ring!
My e-mail back to the WaPo:
The message below says that it was sent "courtesy of the Washington Post". I know that the WaPo does not applaud suicide terrorism, but still, it's a little tasteless for such an unsolicited message to arrive "courtesy of the Washington Post", don't you think?

At the very least, you might include the sender's IP address in messages of this type, so that when people misuse your site to harass unsuspecting members of the public, they don't enjoy full anonymity.

In particular, I think it would behove you in this instance to (a) disclose to me the IP address of the person who had this sent to me, and (b) to the extent possible, prevent that person from using your site to harass people in the future.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:29 PM
How to get away with murder

Here is a formula for getting away with murder.

1) Murder somebody you don't like.
2) Get some of your wealthy friends (who also don't like the person that you murdered) to donate $10 million.
3) Give the $10 million to the family of the person you murdered.
4) Admit that you committed murder.
5) Enjoy the rest of your life. You have gotten away with murder!

On an unrelated subject, if anybody knows how to contact Libyan strongman Muamar Qadhafi, I'd like to invite him over for a glass of elderberry wine.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:42 PM
This should be interesting

Excerpts from Ha'aretz' report on a speech given by Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Abu Mazen to Palestinian legislators on Tuesday

[Abu Mazen said] that there was no military solution to the Palestinians' conflict with Israel and rejected terrorism, pledging to control militant groups and confiscate illegal weapons.

"There is no place for weapons expect in the hands of the government," said Abu Mazen, who has opposed militant violence during the 31-month-old intifada. "There is only one authority."

However, Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad said on Tuesday they would not give up their weapons.

"Of course we will not (disarm)," said Abdel Aziz Rantissi, a top Hamas official.

UPDATE Well that didn't take long. Only a few hours after the Palestinian "legislature" confirmed Abu Mazen as Prime Minister, there was a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Not that this sort of thing wasn't to be expected. But it can only be interpreted as a direct challenge to Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority's authority. Unless the PA takes immediate and severe measures against whoever did this (and it's hard to imagine that they will), one would have to wonder why the US wouldn't give Israel its blessing to obliterate the PA altogether.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:28 PM
Good news from far away

Today's lunchtime fortune cookie promised

Good news will come to you from far away
What sort of good news might they have in mind for me?

Perhaps this? or this? or maybe even this?

Possibly none of the above. In fact, when I got back to my office I found the following e-mail, which came to me from far away Poland!


Penis Enlargement Doesn't Get Any Easier

Imagine the confidence when you're in the locker room and those other guys take notice of your:

Bigger, Longer and Thicker Penis Now!

This is very good news, indeed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:17 PM
Canadian-style health care

Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle devoted a whole section to op-eds calling for some form of government-run universal health care system.

Meanwhile, anybody who is yearning for a Canadian-style government-run health care system might want to (a) ask themselves: "Why is it that 21 people have died of SARS in Canada but none in the United States?" and then (b) go read Mark Steyn for an answer.

In other words, imagine what might happen to your health if going to the doctor was like going to the DMV.

UPDATE Dick Gephardt is making DMV-style healthcare the centerpiece of his Presidential campaign.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:54 AM
April 28, 2003
Wenda Pyman Photography

My friend Wenda Pyman is a terrific landscape and travel photographer. Check out the new Wenda Pyman website, with samples of her work and a list of her upcoming exhibits!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:38 PM
Kim Jong-Il Job Security Plan

Powell: North Korea will disarm for U.S. Aid.

I have no doubt that North Korea is making a sincere offer. In fact, I would expect that Kim Jong-Il would be willing to "disarm" every year or so, in exchange for exponentially increasing amounts of "U.S. aid", until either (a) we kill him, or (b) we surrender to the Dear Leader altogether. If we give him aid today, why wouldn't he play the same game a year from now? If we don't want to confront him today, why would we confront him a year from now, after he uses his "aid" money to strengthen his position?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:48 PM
Destabilizing the Middle East

Kofi Annan recently said that he was

concerned that growing U.S. criticism of Syria for its conduct during the U.S.-led war on Iraq may further destabilize the Middle East.
Let's survey the current situation in the Middle East for signs of destabilization. In the last several days the following has transpired:

A Saudi newspaper publishes an editorial calling for peaceful coexistence with Israel and for an end to scapegoating the Jewish state.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says he is "interested in diplomatic contacts between the two countries to resolve their differences"

Palestinian Prime Minister designate Abu Mazen is about to announce an end to the armed struggle.

Hardline Iranian former President Hashemi Rafsanjani calls for a referendum on renewing ties with the United States.

Pakistan Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali called Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and asked "to resolve outstanding issues through dialogue"

Heh, Kofi was right! The old Middle Eastern order may be in terrible danger of being destabilized beyond recognition. Or one can at least hope that will be.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:51 PM
The Arab News sees the light?

This editorial appeared over the weekend in the Arab News ("Saudi Arabia's First English Language Daily")

This, of course, is nothing new. For decades it has been difficult to find anything in the opinion pages of the Arabic language press that did not concern Israel. Every problem faced by Arab societies was blamed, in however obscure or far-fetched a way, on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. The issue served as a sort of lowest common denominator, satisfying many journalists who were not equipped to write about anything else as well as many of those who rule the Arab world and who would prefer Israel — rather than their own shortcomings — to be the subject of heated discussion in the “Arab street.”


The days when the Arab world could just scream “Israel”, as if that one word were sufficient answer to every question about every problem that came its way — as though saying that one word could deflect all further inquiry — are over. The time for peaceful coexistence, internal reflection and healthy, progressive thinking has come.

and there's more, including a nasty slap at the Arab media coverage of the Iraq war for "confusing news with wishful thinking". Read the whole thing.

Yes, this is that Arab News. But what an interesting change. If this is really a signal of the Saudi regime's embrace of reality, then it's a good thing. It probably doesn't mean much unless similar editorials are also being published in Arabic, and I don't know yet whether they are. But you have to start somewhere. And, uh, it wasn't exactly the so-called "peace" movement that inspired this adjustment, now, was it?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:19 AM
April 27, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 27

Nearly all 700,000 residents of San Francisco are about to become homeless:

A San Francisco psychiatric facility for the severely mentally ill is preparing to close because of the city's budget crisis, and staff members say patients are already being discharged despite the risks to their well-being.

The victory in Iraq coincides with a drop-off in Shark Blog readership back to its pre-war levels. Perhaps there is a causal relationship here? Heck, if more people stop reading me then maybe somebody will overthrow the House of Saud or topple Baby Doc Assad! Don't get me wrong -- YOU should keep reading the Shark Blog. Let somebody else make the sacrifice.

Mark Steyn nearly resigned from the Spectator because of a dispute over that newspaper's editorial policy. (Steyn believes that the UN is a "fully-fledged member of the axis of evil", while the Spectator argues that it has some redeeming merits). I agree with Steyn's characterization of the UN, but I'm glad he didn't resign. His fortnightly Spectator column is one of my favorite items on my reading list. But if you ever need a new home for your column, Mark, you have a standing invitation to publish it right here on the Shark Blog. I can't afford to pay very much, but the prestige would be priceless.

Abu Mazen plans to stay at home for a while:

"I will not leave the country and I will not visit anywhere before the siege imposed on President Arafat has been lifted and before he enjoys full freedom to move within the West Bank and Gaza and outside, without any obstacles to his return," Abbas told The Associated Press

Jordan's King Abdullah told the Corrupt Nabob Network that democracy won't come to the Arab world until the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is "solved". Use your imagination to figure out what a "solution" that satisfies the Arab world might look like. Even then, Abdullah says:

Different countries will set different paces. Democracy will mean different things to different nations. It has to be something that's homegrown.
Use your imagination to figure out what "homegrown democracy" in some of these countries might look like. For some reason, the CNN interviewer didn't think to ask the installed king why it is that Israel has managed to have democracy for the last 55 years while nobody else in the region has. Then again, you wouldn't expect CNN to pose difficult questions to unelected despots, would you.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:12 PM
Is Abu Mazen the Messiah?

Commentary from my father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky

Is Abu Mazan the messiah? Probably not. His appointment as prime minister of Palestine raises more questions than it answers. Will Arafat give him a free hand to deal with terror and negotiate with Israel? Is Abu Mazan willing or able to pressure the various groups to stop the violence? How much of a gesture will Israel present to help him with these tasks?

Even in the best of circumstances, his task is not enviable. The distrust between Israelis and Palestinians is profound. Many of us don't believe a word they say, and it's doubtful that many of them believe us. Not the best of circumstances to reach agreement, even piece by piece.

So how can we proceed? If all goes well, slowly. I doubt that the IDF will pull out of more than one or two Palestinian locales at a time, in order to test the willingness and capacity of the Palestinians to control the violence.

None of this might work. Many Palestinians continue to fantasize that they are on the right track with their violence. So we be due for a longer period of keeping the IDF and other security forces in Palestinian cities, knocking off their leaders and key technicians one or a few at a time, doing our best to keep them from doing us harm, until they come to their senses. It may take a while.

Mattan's group of cadets spent last week posted to the police in order to reinforce their high state of alert for the Passover holiday. He complained in mid week that his was a boring task of guarding a staircase in Kfar Saba. Then Thursday morning he called at 7:30. I wondered what was the problem, because his calls are usually in the afternoon or evening. He said that he was all right, and not to worry, but that 20 or so police cars had just gone careening out of the station to a security incident. There was nothing on the news for a minute or two, until the reports came in about a suicide bomber at the local railroad station.

It turned out that the bomber was affiliated with an organization connected both with Yassir Arafat and Abu Mazan. From all appearances, we'll have to wait for a better messiah.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:22 AM
Professors Without Conscience

Martin Kramer tells the story of some Middle Eastern Studies professors whose idea of scholarship is to circulate petitions warning Israel not to do terrible things that it wasn't planning to do in the first place. [click here and scroll to Apr. 25, 2003 entry]. In this case, the hysterical petition is from the self-described "Professors of Conscience" who caution Israel against "full-fledged ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians from "Israel and the Occupied [sic] Territories".

I might be more inclined to believe that these professors were legitimate scholars if they also wrote petitions warning some of Israel's neighbors not to commit equally implausible atrocities. For example, they might also write a letter insisting that Tunisia must never render old ladies into sandwich meat, or that Jordan should agree never to broadcast dwarf-tossing contests on state-controlled television.

Indeed, I might even believe that these professors had a shred of a "conscience" if they spent half as much of the effort condemning Arab countries for actual human rights abuses, as they spend condemning Israel for imaginary ones.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:03 AM
April 26, 2003
Today's News from Indonesia

(1) U.S. Embassy Families Return to Indonesia

The United States is allowing families of its Jakarta embassy staff to return to Indonesia, saying security has improved in the six months since the Bali night club bombing
(2) Explosion Injures 11 at Indonesia Airport
An explosion rocked Jakarta's international airport early Sunday. Eleven people were reported injured, one seriously.

The blast occurred at about 6:30 a.m. at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the domestic terminal at the capital's Sukarno Hatta International Airport

Well, okay, so somebody at the State Dept. was being a little optimistic. Again.

So far, nobody has claimed responsibility for the blast. Figuring out who did it will be left as an exercise to the reader. HINT: it probably wasn't anybody from Popeye's Fried Chicken.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:14 PM
Here and There, Apr. 26

The proof that Saddam worked with bin Laden: Iraqi intelligence documents discovered in Baghdad by The Telegraph have provided the first evidence of a direct link between Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terrorist network and Saddam Hussein's regime. I'm shocked, as they say, shocked.

Oh, and the Sunday Times reports that documents found in the Iraqi foreign ministry reveal that "Paris shared with Baghdad the contents of private transatlantic meetings and diplomatic traffic from Washington". Who would have guessed?

Holocaust Survivor Meets Holocaust Denier: Congressman Tom Lantos met with Baby Doc Assad in Damascus today, and by this account it was a one-sided conversation: shape up, cut-off support for the Hizbullah and other terrorist groups, and pull-out of Lebanon. No word yet on Baby Doc's response.

If you thought that Thabo Mbeki's position on AIDS was nutty, did you know the South African government believes that SARS is a good thing?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:16 PM
April 25, 2003
Where's my blood for oil money?

Naturally, I was joking yesterday when I said that I own a lot of stock in Exxon-Mobil. In fact, I own a modest number of Exxon-Mobil shares. Either way, I haven't enjoyed much of a windfall from the "blood for oil" war that we were promised. As you can see from this chart, Exxon-Mobil's stock price hasn't been moving much lately.
No bonanza for me. If any of the oil boys are making out like bandits now that the Iraqi oil faucets are in friendly hands, it sure isn't my fellow shareholders in the country's largest oil company.

Yahoo!'s share price, on the other hand, has been doing pretty well lately, and that company hardly seems dependent on access to cheap oil.

What's the deal? How could an oil war not benefit Exxon's stock price? Noam Chomsky, call your office.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:55 PM
German Bus Hijacking

The AP reports that

A gunman hijacked a bus in the northern German city of Bremen on Friday, taking 19 people hostage and leading police on a cross-country highway chase. Police later stormed the bus, capturing the man and all aboard were freed unharmed, officials said.
Who was the hijacker and what was his motive? The AP doesn't say. Reuters reports that
The police spokesman said the hijacker was of "southern appearance" -- a loose description German police often use for people from southern Mediterranean, Arab or Asian countries.
Der Spiegel has the goods
The kidnapper, a 17-year-old Lebanese did not resist arrest. The action apparently had an Islamist motivation
The Religion of Peace, always there when you least expect it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:58 AM
April 24, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 24

I have "never seen a barrel of oil, let alone owned, bought or sold one" either. But I do own shares in Exxon-Mobil, more shares than anybody who's reading this can possibly imagine. And I want my oil profits NOW! If Bush's CIA isn't going to cut the tongues out of the heads of all of those Hollywood busybodies who are getting in between me and my oil, then I don't know what I'm going to do.

Busted: Tariq Aziz has been taken into custody by US forces. This one's for you, Aunt Selma.

Scheer fabrication
Jan 7, 2003

However, the viewing public doesn't seem to understand that what is being planned by our president is not Gulf War II -- a swift punch in the mouth to our old ally Hussein -- but rather a multiyear occupation by the U.S. of an independent, powerful and modern Muslim nation rife with ethnic tension.
April 22, 2003
Of course, our vaunted intelligence forces knew well ... that Iraq had been reduced by two decades of wars, sanctions and arms inspections to a paper tiger
Go get 'em, Bob. Coming soon: the Robert Scheer Canard-o-matic

John Pilger will henceforth be known as "St. John the Ba'athist"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:34 PM
The wrong Peace can also be hell

The San Francisco Chronicle's Ruth Rosen is still upset about the toppling of Saddam's regime which she wanted to leave in power out of concern for the human rights of the Iraqi people. She is now campaigning against the 1991 Persian Gulf War, citing Gulf War veteran Anthony Swofford

Swofford, however, cannot forget what he witnessed. "I've never seen such destruction," he writes. "Every 50 to 100 feet a burnt-out and bombed-out enemy vehicle lies disabled . . . bodies dead in the vehicles or blown from them. Dozens, hundreds, of vehicles, with bodies inside or out . . .. Perhaps those two burnt men, one missing both arms, perhaps they were thinking they might make it back to Baghdad and their families for a picnic. This is war . . . the epic results of American bombing."
Rosen reminds us to "never forget that war is hell". True enough, Ruthie, but the wrong kind of peace can also be hell. As would have been the case had you gotten your wish in 1991 and Saddam were allowed to keep Kuwait so he could steal their oil and do to the Kuwaiti people what he did to the Iraqi people.

If Ruth Rosen were President of the United States I have no doubt that she would dismantle our armed forces and gleefully surrender to the first third-world despot who asked permission to invade.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:17 PM
Baby Doc's Boy in Berlin

Der Spiegel has an interview with Syrian ambassador to Germany Mohammaed Walid Hezbor. Here are some excerpts:

Der Spiegel: The Israeli government has long regarded your country as offering refuge and support to radical Palestinian organizations. How do you respond to these charges?

Hezbor: Israeli is occupying Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory. International law gives every person, whose land is under occupation, the right to strive for the liberation of his land, and to resist and defeat the occupation. Israel can't continue the occupation and demand subordination from those who are affected.

The two follow-up questions that I would have asked, but that Der Spiegel did not, were (a) "What part of international law says that murdering children on a schoolbus is a legitimate way to resolve a territorial dispute?" and (b) "On which date will Syria end its illegal occupation of Lebanon?"
Der Spiegel: Your President Bashar Assad just recently declared in an interview with a Lebanese newspaper that there will never be peace in the Middle East as long as there is an Israel. Is that a denial of Israel's right to exist?

Hezbor: Israel oppresses the people in the Palestinian territories and commits massacres there every day. It tries, by blowing up Palestinian houses and by expanding Israeli settlements, to consolidate its occupation. All of these practices are aimed against peace.

(Translation: The answer to Der Spiegel's proximate question would be "yes").
Der Spiegel: To repeat the question, do you reject Israel as a state, or only certain political currents within Israel?

Hezbor: The Madrid Conference of 1991 established the principle of "Land for Peace". The Arab summit in Beirut in Spring 2002 concluded with an initiative in which the Arabs declared their full readiness for peace if Israel withdraws from the occupied Arab territories. Yet Israel rejects the implementation of the UN resolutions. It rejects withdrawal from the Arab territories and the Arab offers that say: full peace for full Israeli withdrawal. And what was Israel's answer to what the Arabs offered in Beirut? A massacre in Jenin that took the lives of hundreds of Palestinians

Whatever else the Syrians may or may not be offering, as long as they still trot out the thoroughly discredited blood libels such as the one about the "Jenin Massacre", then nothing they say should be believed.

Our work won't necessarily be finished when Baby Doc Assad and his gang of thieves are sent to join Saddam and Osama, but it would be an important step toward cleaning up the neighborhood.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:24 PM
April 23, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 23

Iraqi Ba'athist War Criminal Poker: It looks like we're up to pairs of fours, fives, sevens, queens and a nine-high straight!

Don't get your hopes up yet, but Yassir Arafat's obituary has been prematurely leaked.

There is a new major motion picture about the Win Without War Coalition

I guess this must be an everyday occurrence, if they're passing laws against it. Who knew?

I don't care what Sen. Santorum says, my family is not threatened by other people having gay sex. What exactly is the Senator afraid of? That reading about Rupert Everett in People magazine will tempt me to contemplate my options, and that I'll go and crunch some numbers through a spreadsheet to figure out whether I should be gay or straight as if I were comparing two different mortgages, and then send the wife and kids to live at a homeless shelter so I can run off and join the other team? I don't think so.

Do you floss your teeth regularly? If not, please start flossing tonight, before it's too late.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:14 PM
April 22, 2003
Men Without Ears

Der Spiegel tells the story of Amer Mokassin from Basra, who as a teenager in 1990 went into hiding to avoid conscription into Saddam's army. He was eventually discovered and his right ear was amputated as a permanent mark of disloyalty to Saddam. There are hundreds of other men in Iraq who were similarly mutilated.

When the international "peace" movement worked so feverishly to prevent regime change in Iraq, that is the regime they told us must not be changed. I wonder what the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Pope John-Paul, Gerhard Schroeder and the "Win Without War" celebrities might now want to say to Amer Mokassin.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:14 PM
Here and There, Apr. 22

Martin Kramer contemplates all those scholars who are as angry over the looting of the Baghdad Museum as they are silent on all of the war's sucesses. Why didn't any of them accompany the Marines into Iraq so they could help defend the cultural treasures?[click here and scroll to Apr. 22 post]

It's a pity that some of America's savants weren't along for the ride to Baghdad. Their presence, like that of embedded journalists, would have reminded field commanders of the need to respect and pursue goals deemed important by influential constituencies at home. But our savants didn't propose it. Indeed, they would have found the idea preposterous.
Read the whole thing. And while you're there, read everything else on Kramer's weblog too.

Road to nowhere: The "roadmap to Mid East peace" has developed some major potholes. Abu Mazen threatens to walk away from the Prime Minister's job due to Arafat's stubborn attempts to cling to power.

Hassan Khreisheh, a Palestinian legislator, said Tuesday that Arafat is trying to sabotage Abbas' Cabinet list because he is unwilling to give up power. "He (Arafat) fears he will not be the strongman in the coming phase," said Khreisheh.
At least Arafat is somewhat self-aware, if nothing else.

It may finally be dawning on Chirac that it's his job to repair relations with Washington and not the other way around

In a surprise move, France on Tuesday proposed immediately suspending U.N. sanctions targeting Iraq civilians, an important step toward the U.S. goal of ending trade embargoes that have crippled the country's economy.
Before the war, when he was digging in his heels for Saddam, I got in the habit of spelling his name "Chiraq". But now that he's no longer an Iraqi insider, I've gone back to just plain "Chirac".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:20 AM
April 21, 2003
Protecting Innocent Iraqis


So bleats Amnesty International's Irene Khan, just before the war.

there is a greater moral responsibility on those who have begun the attacks to avoid a humanitarian and human rights disaster. The United States, Britain and their allies must take all possible steps to minimize the impact of the conflict on the people of Iraq.
The United Nations must remain a major player in protecting the human rights of the Iraqi people. The UN Security Council, which has expressed its concern for the protection of civilians in armed conflict in other situations in the world, would be abrogating its responsibility if it remains silent or inactive on Iraq now.
Now that the war is over the newspapers are full of stories like this one and this one and this one that describe Saddam's horrendous human rights abuses -- which have now ended. What's clear is that the US and British military have accomplished far more for human rights in Iraq in three weeks than Amnesty International and the UN Security Council have accomplished in as many decades.

It's time, I think, for Amnesty International to simply disband itself, apologize for its worthlessness and refund its treasury to its contributors. The money can certainly be put to better use. More importantly, the vital work of curing human rights abuses can't afford to hampered by Amnesty's pointless and meddlesome carping.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:50 PM
Here and There, Apr. 21

When the revolution comes and spammers are made to pay for their crimes against humanity, the executives of this company shall be among those whose eyeballs are scooped out of their sockets with soft rubber spoons.

Because only a Holocaust denier can do the job. Ha'aretz reports that

the European Union's Middle East envoy, Miguel Moratinos, has told Arafat that European officials consider Abu Mazen the only acceptable choice as prime minister.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has issued a travel advisory urging extreme caution for Jewish travellers going to France and Belgium.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:47 PM
Ask Aunt Selma

Tariq Aziz' 75-year-old Aunt Selma says:

Let them arrest him. It's not important to me. What can I do with Tariq Aziz?
Asked if her nephew had done anything to aid Christians, she tartly replied:
Zero. Zero. He's very, very bad... part of a criminal regime.
She also added that
Saddam is finished, and we are O.K. We are very happy and merciful to God and the Americans, our uncles.
Happy Easter, Selma. Pope John-Paul, call your office.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:07 AM
Lose Without War

The New York Times reports that on Tuesday, the leaders of the antiwar coalition Win Without War will gather for a two-day retreat to discuss their group's future now that the war has ended. The group's challenge is to build on whatever momentum they might still have left and to "find a message that resonates".

Leaders in the movement do not like to focus on the notion that they lost. Yes, they failed to stop the war. Yes, the public has overwhelmingly supported President Bush's actions. With a swift United States victory over a brutal dictator and fewer casualties than most experts predicted, it is particularly hard for antiwar organizers to argue that their dire forecasts were right.
The group's website still advocates "Alternatives to Pre-emptive War Against Iraq to Keep America Safe". They may as well promote "Alternatives to Soap and Water to Keep America Clean".

Nothing in the article indicates that the WiWoWar folks have learned anything from the success of the war and the relief among Iraqis at being rid of the Saddamite menace. What the self-appointed peace experts might do would be to admit that "okay, we were wrong, the war itself turned out to be the least bad alternative after all" and then focus on promoting viable ideas for rebuilding Iraq and preserving the peace. If they could put forth any legitimate ideas for U.S. relations with the Middle East I might give them some credit. But that is not what's happening. They seem to be starting with the premise that their only mission is to trash the Bush administration. Their opposition to the war and to any foreign policy initiative are merely proxies. The content doesn't matter. They are about dissent for its own sake, never mind the consequences of what their dissent is nominally advocating.

That is why they have to try so hard to fabricate a new message. Because they stand for nothing other than reflexive opposition. For an organization to ask the questions "what are we about? what is our message?" is like when Ross Perot's running mate, Adm. James Stockdale, asked the questions in the 1992 vice-presidential debate with Dan Quayle and Al Gore: "Who am I? Why am I here?". If you have to ask...

Fortunately, most Americans are smart enough to see through the self-congratulating vapidity, unreality and ineffectuality that still characterizes the antiwar movement, especially now after the war is won.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:19 AM
April 20, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 20

April 20, 1996 was an auspicious day for me. In the morning, I bought my first house. It was supposed to be my bachelor pad. That evening I was fixed up on a blind date with ... the woman who would become my wife. The house was never really a bachelor pad, but I got my money's worth anyway. Seven years later, I'm selling the house for more than I paid for it and I'm keeping the wife. Life moves forward.

Ze'ev Schiff on The dangerous games of Bashar Assad

After what transpired in Iraq, and what happened between Syria and Iraq, the account with Assad has to take on a different character. We can no longer tolerate a situation in which the Islamic Jihad headquarters in Damascus issues a directive to blow up buses in Israeli cities and Damascus and Aleppo remain immune.

Zvi Barel poses Seven Riddles

Thomas Friedman says that the terrorism bubble has burst, just like the Internet stock bubble burst. And

Yes, this Iraq war was about Saddam. For George Bush and Tony Blair, though, I think it was about something larger, but unstated. They were implicitly saying: "This terrorism bubble has come to threaten open societies and all they value. So, we're going to use Iraq — because we can — to demonstrate to you that we'll come right into the heart of your world to burst this bubble. Take note.
Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:21 PM
Showing They're Asses

Today's San Francisco Chronicle reports that some of Saddam's Bay Area supporters are still running around with their clothes off to protest his overthrow.

"It's really not about the war in Iraq, it's about the fact that the conditions that breed war are still here," said Alan Moore, director of Musicians & Fine Artists for World Peace
Maybe if we remove the conditions that breed war by exterminating Baby Doc Assad and overthrowing the House of Saud then Alan Moore will finally put his pants back on.
Since its founding by Marshall resident Donna Sheehan, Baring Witness has spawned more than 75 similar nude protests in 26 countries around the world. Sheehan said that while the displays are no longer new, they have not lost their power.
That is true, in the sense that they never had any power to begin with, except to inspire ridicule. Which they still do.
"It's not easy getting naked for what you care about, so it challenges you to grow as an individual ..." said Patrick Norager, a 34-year-old San Francisco musician.
I'm not sure what Patrick's problem is. I care about my wife and it's always been easy for me to get naked for her. And I grow as an individual whenever I do. Maybe Partick needs a new girlfriend. A glass of wine might also help.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:07 PM
April 19, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 19

The Passover Story, as told by CNN

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:14 AM
Saudi Arabia and Sanctions

January 11, 1999: "Saudi Arabia has proposed the lifting of the oil embargo on Iraq to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people. "

April 18, 2003: Saudi Arabia said today that UN sanctions imposed on Iraq should end only when it has a "legitimate government that represents the people."

Heh. Maybe the UN should impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia until it has a legitimate government that represents the people.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:29 AM
The Fall of the House of Saud

And while we're on the topic of the House of Saud, be sure to go out and buy the May 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, cover story: "The Fall of The House of Saud", by Robert Baer

Signs of impending disaster are everywhere, but the House of Saud has chosen to pray that the moment of reckoning will not come soon -- and the United States has chosen to look away. So nothing changes: the royal family continues to exhaust the Saudi treasury, buying more and more arms and funneling more and more "charity" money to the jihadists, all in a desperate and self-destructive effort to protect itself.

The fact is that the West, especially the United States, has left the Saudis little choice. Leading U.S. corporations hire and rehire known Saudi crooks and known financiers of terrorism to represent their interests, so that they can land the deals that will pay the commissions back in Saudi Arabia -- commissions that will further erode the budget and thus further divide the ruling class from everyone else. Former CIA directors serve on boards whose members have to hold their noses to cut deals with Saudi companies -- because that's business, that's the price of entry, that's the way it's done. Ex-Presidents, former prime ministers, onetime senators and congressmen, and Cabinet members walk around with their hands out, acting as if they're doing something else but rarely slowing down, because most of them know it's an endgame too. But sometime soon, one way or another, the House of Saud is coming down.

And it won't be soon enough.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:29 AM
April 18, 2003
Cooked giselle

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. Marines are eating ballerinas!

Cpl. Joshua Wicksell is among U.S. Marines enjoying cooked giselle hunted at Saddam's hunting preserve.
(That's what the home page said. Here's the full story)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:39 PM
Bath Party

Now this is the kind of Bath Party we can all support!

David Sharkansky, age 17 months

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:46 PM
How Many Exactly?

Now how many Iraqis exactly were protesting against the U.S. in Baghdad today? The following news reports all refer to the same incident.

Thousands of Iraqis demonstrated against the U.S. occupation of Iraq on Friday, the second Muslim day of prayer since the regime's collapse
Der Spiegel:
Zehntausende Iraker fordern den Abzug der USA
[Tens of thousands of Iraqis demand a US pull-out]
Al Jazeera:
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis demonstrated today...

More interesting -- the Der Spiegel article clarified what the AP story didn't: the protesters weren't nostalgic for Saddam. They were calling for an Islamic state and were carrying signs like this one: "No Bush, No Saddam. Yes, yes for Islam"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:44 PM
Here and There, Apr. 18

Thomas Friedman is in top form in this week's column Roto-Rooter for Syria?:

Syria, and countries like it, will be a problem, and we need a new strategic doctrine in the post-Saddam era to deal with them.

Let's explore this in detail. For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for.

Yes, Mr. de Villepin did say, while actually visiting Lebanon, that the world should focus not on Syria, but on rebuilding Iraq and advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process. But what he neglected to mention is something I am also for, and France should be for and the world should be for: the end of Syria's occupation of Lebanon, which has been going on since 1976.

(emphasis mine) Read the whole thing.

And speaking of Syria, it looks like both Syria and Iran have decided to join the Axis of Pretty-Please-Promise-You-Won't-Call-Us-Evil-Anymore-We've-Started-to-Behave-Ourselves. Ha'aretz says: Assad begins to fold as the U.S. demands Damascus behave appropriately

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said in public that "Iran won't defend Syria if it comes under attack by the United States,"and that "if the U.S. changes its behavior toward Iran, it is possible to consider a change in Iran's policy toward the U.S." ... When Bashar Assad looks around and sees the ruins of Iraq and the Ba'ath party, Syria's rival and sister party; he realizes that the pan-Arabic ideology that continues to guide him and the Syrian Ba'ath party remains without any Arab customers; Gulf states, especially Kuwait, begin to reconsider their investment policies in Syria; Turkey doesn't really change its policy and is now busy repairing the rifts with Washington, and now Iran, with Khatami's new statements.

"She is called 'Dr. Germ,' and he is known as the 'Missile Man.'" : an Iraqi love story.

Wednesday's San Francisco Chronicle used its scarce allotment of ink and paper to print an op-ed by Berkeley professor David L. Kirp that begins like this

The war in Iraq was initially billed as a cakewalk, the aftermath a triumphal celebration, but the Bush administration badly underestimated the difficulties of both war and peace.
Wow. The administration never billed the war as a cakewalk, although it did turn out to be far shorter and had fewer casualties than any serious estimate I had seen. The difficulties of the peace are as yet unknowable. Whatever Kirp's arguments might be, he would have established more credibility had he opened with, say, "Once upon a time there was a leprechaun named Saddam Hussein". I didn't bother to venture past Kirp's first sentence.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:32 PM
April 17, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 17

This headline sounds like the set-up for a Tim Blair swipe at Michael Moore: Fat Man Sues McDonald's Over Non-Hire

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:19 PM
Scheer Silliness

Every Bob Scheer column reads like it's a bad flashback from a 1968 LSD experience. Could any of his loved ones please tell this man that the Vietnam War is still over? In this week's public seizure, Hanoi Bob is visibly disoriented by the rapid collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. Is he happy or sad that the torture chambers were closed and the emaciated political prisoners were set free? He doesn't say. He is concerned about something more important than the human rights of the Iraqi people. He has found a pretext for criticizing the Bush administration:

History? What History?
Allowing the looting of Iraq's museums is another indication of our contempt for the Mideast — and our unfitness to rule it
First of all, it's far from clear that the museum wasn't already picked clean by the fleeing members of the Tikrit mafia before we even got to Baghdad. But Bob is very close to making sense for once. One can retool his above argument to get the following:
The Saudi/Iraqi/Iranian/Syrian/Egyptian/Libyan/etc. dictators' looting of their countries' national wealth and the repression, torture and mass murder of their subjects is another indication of their contempt for the Mideast -- and their unfitness to rule it.
Go get 'em, Bob.
[Note: the archived version of the column may not contain the "History? History?" quote which is in the temporary version on his home page]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:46 AM
CNN has standards, after all

CNN has been under fire in the last week for its complicity with the Iraqi propaganda machine. This is nothing new or exceptional, CNN has apparently been broadcasting foreign propaganda for years.

But I'm pleased to learn that CNN has standards after all, and it won't participate with just any government's media programs. There are some governments it simply won't be associated with. As part of the rehabilitation of Iraq, the US will be broadcasting American news programs in Iraq under the Towards Freedom television project. The news programs are not produced by the government, but are simply drawn from a variety of independent US media outlets -- including CBS, ABC, Fox, PBS, NBC -- dubbed into Arabic but otherwise unedited. The one major network that has chosen not to participate is ... CNN. According to the Guardian:

when CNN was asked to provide programming for Towards Freedom TV it declined.

The broadcaster did so because it "didn't think that as an independent, global news organisation it was appropriate to participate in a US government video transmission"

So they're willing to change their content to appease tyrants and they're willing to broadcast foreign propaganda, but they're not willing to have their unedited programming carried by a US government station alongside other independent broadcasters. CNN didn't have to choose sides in order to take part in Towards Freedom. But I guess they decided to choose sides anyway.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
Where is Janeanne's Iraqi fan club?

We've all seen the pictures of liberated Iraqis kissing Marines and shouting "Bush! Bush! Bush!". But where are the Iraqis who are demonstrating to say thank you to Chirac and Schroeder and Putin (not to mention Bashar Assad and Janeanne Garofalo and Martin Sheen) for working to avoid the war? I mean there's got to be somebody in Iraq who's grateful to Michael Moore for trying to keep Bush from toppling Saddam. Where is this person and why hasn't the BBC found him yet?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:39 AM
April 16, 2003
The Sorry State of The Chronicle

In spite of a few signs of rehabilitation, the San Francisco Chronicle continues to distinguish itself as both a shameless enemy of the Bush administration and a wanton apologist for terrorists and their state sponsors. In yesterday's unsigned editorial, the paper pours all of the blame for the looting of Baghdad's museum into Donald Rumsfeld's lap, accusing him of criminal negligence. Yet they are also convinced of the noble intentions of the Saddamite mafiosi

One hope is that some of the antiquities may have been stored for safekeeping before this war or taken by Saddam Hussein to adorn his private palaces.
It apparently doesn't occur to those who think that the Republican Guard are better people than the Republican Party that it would have been members of the ancien regime who stole the antiquities, not for "safekeeping", but for sale on the black market. The Baltimore Sun reports that
A Northern California scholar and collector of Iraqi art who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was contacted surreptitiously before the war and told that Iraqi antiquities would soon become available.
I wonder who could have known this, other than someone who had already emptied the museum?

The Chronicle has never found a Ba'athist dictator whom they haven't wanted to protect from US foreign policy. In today's editorial, they side with Baby Doc Assad, member of the world's A-list of promoters of torture, plunder, terrorism and illegal occupation of other people's territory.

We welcome the administration's denial of intent to pursue a military solution of these newly enunciated grievances against Syria. That would further destabilize a Middle East just starting to digest the results in Iraq and inflame opinion in the Arab world against the United States. Another pre- emptive war could not be justified by the claim that Damascus threatens U.S. interests; Syria is even hostile to the al Qaeda terrorists who are in the bull's-eye of the U.S. war on terrorism.
Never mind that Syria is an energetic sponsor of others who are in the bull's eye of the U.S. war on terrorism, such as the Hizbullah. And since the war on terrorism is all about destabilizing the wretched status quo in the Middle East, why stop now? Indeed, I am worried that the Chronicle's pro-Ba'ath editorial policy is going to inflame opinion in the American world against San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Annie Nakao is the Chronicle's back-of-the-comic-section housewife columnist, a kind of self-absorbed America-bashing Berkeley version of Erma Bombeck, but without the decency, insights or sense of humor. Yesterday Nakao eulogized bulldozer shahida Rachel Corrie, calling her an "aid worker" and a "peace activist".
Weeks after her death, I still find it hard to judge the wisdom of Rachel Corrie
Uh, it shouldn't be at all hard to judge (the absence of) Corrie's wisdom, and to figure out that she was neither an "aid worker" nor was she working for "peace", she was trying to sabotage the defensive military operations of only one of the parties to the conflict. Nakao goes on to allege that Israel violates human rights and the Geneva Convention, but for some reason she doesn't mention that the Palestinian terrorists whom Corrie was defending happen to violate ... human rights and the Geneva Convention. Nakao closes
So despite the polarized views of Rachel Corrie's death, this matter, too, is complicated. Perhaps trying to understand why she was there is her gift to us.

"This was something she studied, read about, formed her own opinions on," said brother Chris Corrie. "That's what the rest of us need to do now."

I understand that Corrie's reprehensible choices were the result of a lousy upbringing and a bad education. Now I don't wish anything bad to happen to Annie Nakao. But if she should ever be, say, hacked to pieces, I might say to myself: "Gee, this is complicated, but the murderer's gift to humanity is so we may try to understand why he dismembered Annie Nakao. I will study and read about this and try to form my own opinion"

UPDATE In Wednesday's Chronicle, an otherwise fine article about an Iraqi-born Jewish immigrant is blemished by this characterization:

It was 1951. The newly established Jewish state -- and the displacement of thousands of Palestinians -- had rekindled violence and recrimination against the once-thriving Jewish community of Baghdad.
Sorry. The establishment of the State of Israel had nothing to do with Iraq and was not responsible for "kindling" the anti-Jewish pogroms there any more than the Emancipation Proclamation was responsible for "kindling" violence against black people in the United States. Indiscriminate ethnic violence is kindled only by the hatred and indecency of those who commit it, not by somebody else's newly won liberation.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:11 PM
April 15, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 15

See, just as I wrote two months ago, they would be acting like "hookers at a dental convention"

Naturally, this should not be seen as evidence of a Saddam connection to terrorism

And this should not be seen as evidence of a connection between the Ba'ath Party in Syria and the Ba'ath Party in Iraq

Nancy Pelosi was on the Tavis Smiley Show this morning talking about "the war in Iraq, America's future and the role of the Democratic Party". (Be careful: A single sentence containing all of the phrases "Nancy Pelosi" "Democratic Party" and "America's future" may cause vomiting, coughing fits and/or sleep disorders). Pelosi was still portraying the liberation of Iraq as an unnecessary pre-emptive war that was a distraction from the war on terrorism. Pre-emptive wars are wrong, she explained, because it's un-American to attack someone who hasn't attacked you first. Please help me launch a pre-emptive attack on Nancy Pelosi in order to prevent her from permitting unpre-empted attacks on the United States. Vote Republican to pre-empt Nancy from becoming Speaker of the House, or worse.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:17 PM
What is Terrorism?

In Damascus, Syria, a poster reads, "What is terrorism? . . . It's killing children, destroying hospitals, stealing the wealth of people and declaring war without international reference."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:57 AM
Winds of Change

The cleansing wind that is blowing the fetid stench of Ba'athism out of the Middle East has even reached the San Franicsco Chronicle's editorial page. Ruth Rosen is still as opposed to the liberation of Iraq as she ever was, but at least she admits this week to having learned something new

Now I understand what I didn't fully grasp decades ago: Every soldier is someone's child.
That's impressive scholarship, Ruthie. I guess that's an example of why you're a tenured professor of history and I'm not.

Monday's Chronicle also had the latest column of Tom Plate, whom I've occasionally skewered. This time I can say without irony (seriously) that Plate's comments on China hit the target.

In general, Chinese diplomacy has been otherwise nimble, if conservative. But it has been embarrassingly clumsy on North Korea. Asked (reasonably enough) by Washington to step up the pressure on Pyongyang to drop its nuclear-weapons program, Beijing has said it lacks leverage.

This hapless claim flies in the face of credulity. If China does wield scant influence, those in charge of its North Korean policy should be fired. Year after year of substantial aid and ideological comfort to the North should not yield so little in return.

If China aspires to be the most influential power in the region, it can scarcely hope to attain that with ineffective policies. Beijing urgently needs to locate some leverage before the Pentagon starts to view North Korea as another Iraq.

Kudos to Plate, who before the war was cheerfully blaming the Bush administration for everything that went wrong in both Iraq and North Korea.

Unfortunately, the Chronicle's Letters to the Editor section still reads like a funeral home guest book, full of condolences over the disembowelment of the Tikriti mafia.

What terribly dangerous model of pre-emption have we offered with our nihilistic arrogance? Just what kind of world are we threatening to create in the name of peace and security?
Yeah, liberation sucks, but maybe if enough people look hard enough, we might be able to find a silver lining in the closing of the torture chambers after all.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:23 AM
April 14, 2003
Believe it, or not

Last week I ordered a new laptop from Dell. They promised me it would ship tomorrow, April 15. It arrived today, April 14. H.G. Wells, call your office.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:45 PM
April 13, 2003
Two Views of War, Two Views of Peace

There are, in fact, two wars taking place in Iraq. One war is being fought in the actual world, the other in the alternative reality universe that is the Arab media. Today on the Al-Jazeera Arabic language website

Tikrit displays fierce resistance to the Marine forces

The Reuters agency reported the news that forces of the American Marines were engaged in fierce tank battles against the Iraqi forces in the southern outskirts of the city of Tikrit.

Fierce yes, but fierce for whom? The AP simultaneously reported that
Marines move into Saddam's hometown of Tikrit; first televised footage shows weakened defenses

American troops entered Tikrit on Sunday, meeting little resistance as they pushed into the last stronghold of fighters loyal to President Saddam Hussein, the U.S. military said.

Meanwhile, on the peace side of the balance sheet, Ariel Sharon gave an interview to Ha'aretz He said, among other things

One has to view things realistically. Eventually there will be a Palestinian state. I view things first and foremost from our perspective. I do not think that we have to rule over another people and run their lives. I do not think that we have the strength for that. It is a very heavy burden on the public and it raises ethical problems and heavy economic problems.
It comes from the depth of my soul. Look, we are talking about the cradle of the Jewish people. Our whole history is bound up with these places. Bethlehem, Shiloh, Beit El. And I know that we will have to part with some of these places. There will be a parting from places that are connected to the whole course of our history. As a Jew, this agonizes me. But I have decided to make every effort to reach a settlement. I feel that the rational necessity to reach a settlement is overcoming my feelings.
Here's how Al-Jazeera chose to report Sharon's conciliatory statements
Sharon: Peace requires the Palestinians to give up the right of return

The Israeli Prime Minister announced his government's willingness to surrender settlements in the West Bank as part of a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians, preconditioned on giving up the right of return to settle the conflict. Palestinians dismissed these remarks as not serious and wanted actions, not empty statements

It is not news for an Israeli Prime Minister to rule out the so-called "right of return" for Palestinians. It is news for Ariel Sharon to acknowledge the inevitability of a Palestinian state and the necessity to evacuate West Bank settlements.

Al Jazeera's reportage, estranged from the actual world, will not prepare the Arab public for a realistic peace with Israel, any more than it can give the Arab public a realistic picture of what is happening in Iraq.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:12 PM
An e-mail from Jerusalem

Arnold Roth writes:

Dear friend:

Over the past eighteen months, since the massacre at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, my wife Frimet and I have grown increasingly appalled at the display of poor journalistic and ethical values of a procession of reporters, photographers, journalists and media analysts. Some of them have mis-reported on events about which we had personal knowledge. Others have come to our home or invited us to their studios and directly interviewed us -- and then did disgraceful things with the material they collected. CNN and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation are top of a depressingly long list.

In an illuminating and very important NY Times opinion piece [Friday, Apr. 11], senior CNN executive Eason Jordan admits that the network regularly covered up stories of Iraqi torture and atrocities; see The News We Kept to Ourselves, online here .

After a disclosure as broad-reaching and shocking as this, why would we trust anything that comes from CNN? By covering up these stories, CNN helped the evil regime of Saddam Hussein remain in power, for no other reason than sheer cowardice. One web-blog site LGF put it well tonight: "Jordan seems to think that remaining in Baghdad was more important than anything else, even more important than reporting the truth. Disgusting and shameful beyond all words."

CNN and Eason Jordan are certainly not alone. From personal knowledge, some of the biggest media names regularly, consistently tell lies and deny it. This is especially true in relation to how they report on the Palestinian Arab war of terror against our children. This continues until today. It will go on until ordinary people like you and me speak out and demand that it ends.

Getting the media to acknowledge their dishonesty is no easy task. Eason Jordan himself was challenged about CNN's reporting from Baghdad six months ago, and said this: "The writer clearly doesn't have a clear understanding of the realities on the ground because CNN has demonstrated again and again that it has a spine; that it's prepared to be forthright; is forthright in its reporting."

It's evident now that this senior CNN executive knew then that he was lying. But there were plenty of people who wanted to believe. For those people, and for all of us, the right question to ask now, as the Wall Street Journal put it on Friday, is this: "What are CNN and other news organizations failing to tell us about other thuggish regimes, from communist Cuba to the Palestinian Authority?"

Every one of us needs to consider carefully what we can do. But doing something constructive is imperative.

Warm wishes for a peaceful and enjoyable Passover.

Hag kasher vesame'ach,
Arnold Roth

PS For those wanting to do something immediately, here's a suggestion. This was suggested as a response by some friends as a way to express our disgust with media dishonesty while reaffirming our belief in the basic goodness of humanity. Help Keren Malki in its work of helping Israeli families who deal every day with the challenge of raising a child with severe disabilities. Get started at http://www.kerenmalki.org/Doing_Something_Positive.htm. We're keeping a computerized record of protest contributions. At some point, we'll aim to get some media coverage of how ordinary people from all over the world are using donations and acts of hesed as an appropriate response to distorted, dishonest reporting on the conflict in Israel. Please consider forwarding this email to friends who don't already know about Keren Malki. And thank you for your support.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:20 AM
April 12, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 12

No shit, Sherlock: The FBI has finally concluded that the shooting attack at the LAX El Al ticket counter last July 4th was an act of terrorism. So I guess that shoots down, so to speak, all those other alternate theories of what it might have been.

Martin Kramer offers a sobering perspective on the liberation of Iraq [go here and look for the April 9, 2003 entry]

As the Cheering Starts. The long-awaited scenes of celebration from Iraq tell us this: Iraq's own people have lost their fear of Saddam. They know that even if he still lives, he will not return. A chapter is closed.

But in Baghdad, a joyous crowd celebrates every regime change. In 1958, a military coup destroyed the royal family. The crowd seized the body of the regent and dismembered it. The trunk was secured to the balcony of the Defense Ministry. "A young man with a knife in his hand climbed a lamp-post nearby," wrote an Iraqi witness, "and began cutting off the flesh, working from the buttocks upwards."

No doubt, there are many in today's crowds who would do the same to the body of Saddam—including people who, only last week, pledged themselves willing to sacrifice their spirit and blood for him.

The Iraqis, in the end, did not rise up. They waited to see the whites of American eyes before they headed into the streets. They did not earn their freedom; they had it delivered to them, U.S. federal express. It is doubtful they are ready to assume its responsibilities.

This is the time to put illusions aside, and take a hard look at the people whose fates we now control. Just as they could not remove the dictator without American lifting, they cannot make a civil order without American prodding. There's nothing exceptional about an excitable crowd in Baghdad. "Liberation Day" will come only when the Iraqis go to the polls, and convene a parliament.

Among other things, this observation should help remind us why it should be the US that must have the major role in civil reconstruction, and not the UN (i.e. Russia, China, France, Libya, Pakistan, Cuba, Nigeria, et al)

Axis of No Longer Wanting to Be Seen as Evil: Iran's former president offered Saturday to help restore ties with the United States, breaking with hard-liners nervous about American-led forces in neighboring Iraq.

Meanwhile, North Korea hinted Saturday that it would accept U.S. demands for multilateral talks to discuss the communist country's suspected nuclear weapons program.

Go figure.

U.S. troops have discovered what appears to be Saddam Hussein's bachelor pad

The doors of the town house opened to reveal a playboy's fantasy straight from the 1960s: mirrored bedroom, lamps shaped like women, air-brushed paintings of a topless blonde woman and a mustached hero battling a crocodile.
But wait, there's more!
Next door, where iron sheets were welded over all the windows, they found more than 6,000 Berretta pistols, 650 Sig Sauer pistols, 248 Colt Revolvers, 160 Belgian 7.65 mm pistols, 12 cases of Sterling submachine guns and four cases of anti-tank missiles all still in the unopened original boxes. There were also tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition mortars and cases of old handguns and heavy machine guns.
Now maybe Michael Moore will finally join the parade and support Saddam's overthrow.

Thousands, hundreds, or maybe even dozens of San Franciscans who have neither the sense to stay out of the rain nor the moral fiber to support the people of Iraq, quickly dispersed after coming together to offer hope that Saddam Hussein might someday return to power.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:36 PM
April 11, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 11

Heads up, Medea Benjamin: What should American lefties and Europeaser "human rights" activists have to say about this outrage?

My neighbor Bill Quick intersperses quotes from the respective alternative reality universes of Iraqi "Information Minister" Muhamad Sahaf and House "Democrat Leader" Nancy Pelosi. Sad but true: Pelosi and Sahaf are more alike than different.

For some reason, I've had 9 hits today from people doing the Google search "Nancy Pelosi Idiot". I get these every once in a while. But I've had more today than on any other single day.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:30 PM
The Collapse of the Anti-War Movement

The San Francisco Chronicle's Ruth Rosen personifies the collapse of the anti-war movement. Now that we see Iraqis kissing Marines and changing their names to George in gratitude for the war that Rosen wanted so badly to prevent, she now has to dig even deeper to find fellow travelers. Deeper, as in six feet under. In Thursday's column, Rosen slanders a dead person by claiming she knows he would have worked to deny Iraqis their freedom.

If he were alive today, [Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.] probably would be reviled by many as an unpatriotic traitor. Why? Because he would oppose a pre-emptive war on Iraq.
This prompted me to send the following letter to the editor of the Chronicle
In today's column Ruth Rosen insults the memory of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with her presumption to know that he would "oppose a pre-emptive war on Iraq". Perhaps King would oppose the current war in Iraq, perhaps not, but obviously none of us can know this, so none of us should pretend to speak for him.

Rosen has spent the last several months writing passionately against the war for "human rights" reasons. Now we see actual Iraqis from Baghdad to Dearborn celebrating the fall of Saddam and thanking President Bush and the US military as liberating heroes. Rosen's misplaced concern for the people of Iraq would seem to have been conclusively discredited. Is she so desperate to argue her lost cause that she has to put words in the mouth of a man who cannot possibly respond to defend himself?

While Rosen likes to describe herself as an "historian turned journalist", her column is neither history nor journalism, but merely her own personal fantasy world. Those of us who buy and read the Chronicle in order to learn about current events deserve better.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:03 AM
April 10, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 10

Saddam's UN ambassador Muhammad Al-Douri leaves New York on a plane bound for (where else) ... France.

San Francisco may no longer qualify for its nickname "Baghdad by the Bay". These days, at least, you will see more American flags in Baghdad (Iraq) than in San Francisco, and George W Bush seems to be more popular there than he is in San Francisco.

Michael Lewis gives us lessons in How to Hate the French.

I used to think of Molly Ivins as the Granny Clampett of American journalism, but an equally apt comparison might be to Eva Braun. In this week's column, Molly resorts to crude anti-Semitism in her derogation of Gen. Jay Garner, who was tapped to lead the reconstruction of Iraq:

Garner is a retired general with links to both the international arms industry and a Jewish lobby group... The problem of Garner's alleged Zionist sympathy is also causing talk. He visited Israel as the guest of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs [JINSA] and signed a statement in October 2000 blaming the Palestinian Authority for the violence after the collapes of peace talks and praising the "remarkable restraint" of the Israeli army.
JINSA's advisory board, by the way, includes other members of the "worldwide Jewish conspiracy", such as former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and former Vice-Presidential candidate Jack Kemp.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:53 AM
Nancy Pelosi, Insurmountably Racist

This is what Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said last week on the Michigan affirmative action case before the Supreme Court

Race and poverty, together or separately, too often set up insurmountable barriers to Americans who seek to better their lives and contribute to society.
Let us parse this. She is saying that "Race is an insurmountable barrier to success for many people". Not that the legacy of racial inequality has left persistent disparities, or that some are born into economic disadvantage that is an extra challenge to overcome, both of which are of course true. But that "race" itself is an obstacle which can be impossible to overcome, in other words a devastating handicap like quadriplegia or Down's Syndrome. Unfortunately, I don't think this is merely a sloppy statement, I think this is what most affirmative action supporters tacitly believe -- that blacks, in particular, are innately incapable of competing with others and require a perpetual infrastructure of social benefits and low standards. How deeply insulting to all Americans, black and otherwise, who did and will persevere in the face of any number of transitory and surmountable disadvantages to succeed on their own merits.

My Oxford English Dictionary defines racism as follows:

The theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race.
Isn't that exactly what Pelosi is embracing?

For me, this is a Trent Lott moment, a single ill-considered statement that encapsulates an entire career of boneheadedness. Pelosi deserves the full treatment for this. But sadly, the liberal media is more likely to praise her for her "compassion" than criticize her for her deeply ingrained bigotry.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:48 AM
April 09, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 9

NPR's Anne Garrels reporting from Baghdad, illustrates the collapse of Saddam's regime with a tale about one of her [former] government minders.

There's a security guy called Mazen Kadem, who was a particularly nasty fellow. This morning he appeared and tried to steal a Mitsubishi owned by the Italian jouranlists here. They managed to catch him and instead of his normally gruff authoritative manner he ended up begging them to let him go. When he finally managed to persuade somebody to drive him home, since he failed to steal the car, he was seen to be tearing up his intelligence agency ID.
Go figure. Oh, and Garrels also mentioned that the Minister of "Information" didn't show up for work today either. Listen to the whole thing.

Wankees Go Home: Even the San Francisco Chronicle admits that many Iraqis are cheering the US military as liberators

For the most part, the Marines were treated as conquering heroes. Young Iraqis put flowers in the pockets of their body armor. Kids begged for money.

There was a lot of smiling and laughing. One Iraqi gave out high-fives to passing Marines and reporters.

There were some American and European "human shields'' at the rally, people who had come to put themselves in harm's way in hopes of stopping the shooting. They chastised the Marines for attacking Iraq and promoting war.
Meanwhile, two Iraqis held up a sheet bearing the message: "Go home Human Shields, you U.S. Wankers.''

I wonder how the people of Baghdad would feel about the Chronicle's own Ruth Rosen, whose columns were passionately opposed to the war, on "human rights" grounds. Rosen wrote:
When people ask, as they eventually will, who stood up for human rights ...
Who, indeed? It sure wasn't Ruth Rosen.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing has a screen shot of the Iraqis holding the "Wankers Go Home!" placard

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:06 PM
Fischer in Ramallah

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer broke Arafat's diplomatic isolation today when he met the PLO chairman in his Ramallah office. Israel criticized Fischer for the meeting, arguing that it would harm the standing of Abu Mazen, and would alleviate the diplomatic isolation imposed on Arafat. Indeed, there is one, and only one, conversation that would be legitimate for Fischer to have with Arafat. It would go something like this:
"Yassir, old freund,"
Joschka would say with a friendly arm around Yassir's shoulder,
"it's time for you to retire. I mean, it's really, really time for you to step aside. I mean, like, I'm the last EU official who will come to see you in your role as PA Chairman. You can save face and make your own announcement in a week or two at the most. But I have a bad feeling that the next time an Israeli is killed in a terrorist attack, the Israelis will do to you what the Americans did to Saddam at that felafel joint in Baghdad. And I'd hate to see that happen..."
At which point Yassir would get all teary eyed and say
"I know. I was already planning to make the announcement next Thursday and I just wanted to see you once more for old times sake".

Yes, it's probably just a lot of wishful thinking on my part. The more likely scenario is that Arafat will feel somewhat emboldened by Fischer's visit, just as Saddam was emboldened by Schroeder/Fischer anti-war diplomacy. There will be more terror attacks, and Israel will still be pressured to show restraint and leave Yassir alone. But it doesn't hurt to think positive thoughts now and then.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:28 PM
Iraqis Celebrate As U.S. Takes Baghdad

The AP reports

Saddam Hussein's rule over the capital has ended, U.S. commanders declared Wednesday, and jubilant crowds swarmed into the streets here, dancing, looting and defacing images of the Iraqi leader. A Marine tank toppled a giant statue of Saddam in a sweeping, symbolic gesture...

"I'm 49, but I never lived a single day," said Yusuf Abed Kazim, a Baghdad imam who pounded the statue's pedestal with a sledgehammer. "Only now will I start living. That Saddam Hussein is a murderer and a criminal."

Others marked the regime's dissolution more passively, picking flowers from a nearby garden and handing them to Marines.

Go figure.

But not every Iraqi rejoiced.

"This is the destruction of Islam," said Qassim al-Shamari, 50, a laborer wearing an Arab robe.
That's okay, some Americans are also disappointed. Like Robert Scheer , for example.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:03 AM
A Topical Joke

Five surgeons are discussing who makes the best patients to operate on.

The first surgeon says, "I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered,"

The second responds, "Yeah, but you should try electricians. Everything inside them is color-coded."

The third surgeon says, "No, I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order."

The fourth surgeon chimes in: "You know, I like auto mechanics. They always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end and when the job takes longer than you said it would."

But the fifth surgeon, Dr. Morris Fishbein, shuts them all up when he observes: "The French are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, no balls and no spine. Plus the head and ass are interchangeable."

[by way of Abe Kohen]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:41 AM
April 08, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 8

Wishing a speedy and complete recovery to Rodney Dangerfield, who is undergoing major surgery. I spoke with Rodney on the phone once regarding a potential business deal. The deal didn't materialize, but he was very friendly and gracious.

Buyer Beware: Marketplace Radio reported that the intelligence which may have betrayed Saddam's location was obtained by monitoring a "secure" radio system -- which the British sold Iraq several years ago, and which the coalition forces somehow had the ability to decrypt.

Tax Me More: Pennsylvania state lawmakers propose a plan to encourage voluntary donations to state government from those who want to pay more taxes. Sounds like the ideal solution to me. The government could even run pledge drives, like public television stations!

Ze'ev Schiff on The Syrian-Iraqi arms deal that angered America

The large arms deal Syria recently made on behalf of the regime in Baghdad (thus provoking rage in Washington) involved the acquisition from Russia of 500 laser-guided anti-tank missiles and their transfer to the Iraqis. ...
At first, the Americans sufficed to deal with the problem quietly and diplomatically, but their anger has increased in view of the Syrians' ongoing activities. Washington was also angered by the opening of the Syrian border to volunteers from the Arab states (primarily Syria) who wanted to joint the fight against the coalition forces.

American pressure, it seems, is beginning to work: The Syrian-Iraqi border crossings have indeed been closed to passage.

Go figure.

But Michael Ledeen still says that Syria and Iran must get their turn. He closes with "Faster Please".

Yesterday in my neighborhood coffee house I saw one of the regulars, a friendly but ferociously idiotarian "peace" activist (his favorite article of clothing is a "Bush Sucks" T-shirt). Call him "Pete". "Hi Pete," I greeted him in my hail-fellow-well-met sort of way. "How's the war going?". Pete said nothing and gave me a dirty look. He was in a terrible mood, what with having to start over and find another whole cause to protest.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:21 PM
Nuremberg Trial for Saddam?

The Bavarian state prosecutor in Nuremberg of all places is investigating possible murder charges against Saddam Hussein, Der Spiegel reports. A 39-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman has died in Nuremberg of causes that are believed to be the result of a 1987 mustard gas attack, believed to have been ordered by Saddam. The Nuremberg prosecutor claims jurisdiction because the unnamed woman died in his district. An autopsy has been ordered to confirm the cause of death.

The report doesn't say when the woman died, but the timing of the investigation is interesting. Will they still go through with a trial even if Saddam turns out to have been rendered into an urnful of sticky rubble? And I can't help but wonder how an earlier indictment might have affected Germany's stance on the war. Or was this deliberately withheld and timed in order to help give Schroeder a pretext for joining up with the right side of history?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:08 PM
April 07, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 7


Shortly after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stark warning to Iran and Syria last week, declaring that any "hostile acts" they committed on behalf of Iraq might prompt severe consequences, one of President Bush's closest aides stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that his unpredictable defense secretary had just raised the specter of a broader confrontation.

Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work.

Read the whole thing. (by way of the invaluable Meyer Rafael)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:00 PM
All That Jazeera

I continue to monitor the Al-Jazeera Arabic website to see how they're reporting on the war.

First, recap some of today's events in Iraq:
* US forces have taken control of significant parts of Baghdad
* British forces have taken control of Basra, following the collapse of the local Ba'ath infrastructure.
* Chemical Ali's body was found in the rubble of his Basra home.
* A number of suspected chemical weapons installations have been identified.

The following are the only headlines that Al-Jazeera chose to report today (note that their home page is updated throughout the day, and will quickly cease to match this summary)

* Two American soldiers were killed in an Iraqi attack south of Baghdad

* [Iraqi Information Minister] Sahaf denies that the invasion forces have penetrated the center of the Iraqi capital

* Baghdad resists the continuous bombardment that has left tens of victims

* Warnings of a possible bombing hours before Blair-Bush meeting

* Russian Ambassador to Baghdad accuses Americans of attacking his convoy

* Palestinian martyr operation in Gaza and houses demolished in E. Jerusalem

* Oil falls and shares rise with the outbreak of the battle of Baghdad

While I believe that all of the individual headlines are true on their face, all except the last one miss the big picture of what is really going on. [Even the story of Sahaf's denial is accurate. He did issue such a denial, although it was obviously bogus]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:43 PM
April 06, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 6

Saddam Terrorism Connection?

Southeast of Baghdad, Marines seized one of Saddam's palaces, poked through remnants of a Republican Guard headquarters and searched a suspected terrorist training camp, finding the shell of a passenger jet believed to be used for hijacking practice.
Go figure.

Terrorism Whitewash Watch Under the headline "Israel Begins Trail [sic] for Arafat Aide", the AP reports that

The trial of Marwan Barghouti, the highest-ranking Palestinian political leader in Israeli custody, opened Sunday in a Tel Aviv court with Barghouti refusing to contest the murder charges against him and flashing V-signs at friends
He is on trial not because he is an "aide" to Arafat, or "political leader". He is on trial because he is a terrorist kingpin, implicated in a large number of murders.

Amir Taheri writes about the growing rifts between competing camps within Iran's ruling Mullocracy. The "accomodationists", led by President Khatami, want to partner more closely with the US (at least on the issue of toppling Saddam) :

"Change in Iraq has become inevitable," [Khatami's strategist] wrote. "And it is clear that we can neither stop nor go against it. We must thus go along with it and seek two things: a guarantee that the next regime in Baghdad will not be hostile to Iran, and a guarantee that we are not [Washington's] next target."
On the other side are the "confrontationists", led by former President Rafsanjani, who fear that a US victory in Iraq will encourage the US to target Iran next:
Hassan Rouhani, a junior mullah who is secretary general of the High Council of National Defense, says that Iran should be prepared for "preemptive action" to forestall U.S. attempts at using force against the Islamic Republic.

"The Americans will not dare think of a full-scale military invasion of Iran," he says. "But they will certainly use soft war and low intensity tactics to topple our regime. We must, therefore, be ready to take preemptive action. The most effective way is to open new political and military fronts against Israel."

Confirms the argument that the Arab/Islamic conflict with Israel is not really about Israel or Palestinians at all -- it is simply a proxy for any number of other disagreements, resentments, inter-Islamic rivalries and contests with the West.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:27 PM
A Topical Joke

Bin Laden phoned President George W. Bush. "I had a dream about the United States," he said. "I could see the whole country, and over every building and home was a banner," said Bin Laden. "What was on the banner?" asked Mr. Bush. "LONG LIVE OSAMA!" answered the terrorist.

"I am so glad that you called," said President Bush, "because I too had a dream. In my dream, I saw Baghdad and it was more beautiful than ever, totally rebuilt with many tall, gleaming office buildings, large residential subdivisions with swimming pools full of men and women; and over every building and home was a big, beautiful banner."

"What did the banner say?" asked Osama. "I don't know," answered President Bush, "I can't read Hebrew."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:09 PM
April 05, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 5

Let's suppose you were a leader of the Palestinian movement and you wanted the United States to support your people in their drive for an independent state. If you knew what you were doing, the main thrust of your diplomacy would be to portray the Palestinian people and leadership as steadfast friends of the United States and the Bush administration. So THIS will help explain why there won't be an independent Palestinian state for many years to come.

The AP reports that "American peace activist shot in face in West Bank". But he isn't any kind of "peace activist", he is a member of the terrorism cheerleader group "International Solidary Movement". And he was shot not because of his opinions, but because he chose to jump in the way of Israeli soldiers who were engaged in a firefight. Not unlike the way that ISM fellow-traveler Rachel Corrie chose to martyr herself on a bulldozer last month. Shame on the AP for elevating these terrorism groupies to the status of "peace activists".

And speaking of the International Solidarity Movement, Judith Weiss found an interesting article about the ISM. Long, but worthwhile. It turns out that the ISM is a bunch of self-described idealistic pacifist anarchists, working in support of a violent movement to create a fascist state. But that's today's "peace movement" for you.

The latest L.A. Times poll shows that domestic support for military action in Iraq is growing. Furthermore, 42% of Americans would support action against Syria if necessary, and half would support action to end Iran's nuclear weapons program. Interestingly, a larger percentage of women than men support the latter. Ruth Rosen, call your office.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:23 PM
Aging Hippie Feminist Watch

The San Francisco Chronicle's Ruth Rosen uses Friday's column to tell us about a reunion with her aging hippie feminist girlfriends.

We are women of a certain age, raised to embrace traditional lives, but transformed by the 1960s and 1970s.
In other words, these are women who haven't learned anything new since the Ford administration.
This year, each of us arrives depleted and drained from having tried, in different ways, to stop this war from starting.
For all the things they might have tried to accomplish this year, their top priority was to keep Saddam Hussein in power.
we've all dedicated our lives to leaving the world a better place than we found it. We've worked here and abroad to end poverty and promote world peace.
Their definitions of "ending poverty" and "promoting world peace" apparently include keeping Saddam Hussein in power.
We've fought for racial equality, women's rights, environmental justice and universal health care
Isn't it ironic that Saddam Hussein, whom they want to keep in power, has done as much harm to these causes as any other living human?
We are all educators of one sort or another
It frightens me that the Chronicle runs Rosen's column in order to educate the public.
... anguish dwells inside each of us. There is the quiet recognition that this ultraconservative administration -- by bankrupting our national wealth through war and tax cuts - - has turned our dreams into a nightmare.
Whether or not one approves of the war or tax cuts, tax cuts do not reduce our "national wealth". All they do is slow the redistribution of national wealth. And our country is nowhere near bankruptcy. These so-called "educators" seem to be in need of remedial lessons in economics.
"Things have never been this bad in our entire lives," one of us says. Heads nod in agreement.
Now Ruthie, stop your whining. How bad can your life really be? You get paid for what is probably the easiest job on the planet. All you have to do is write a bi-weekly column where you do little more than regurgitate McGovern '72 campaign slogans. You aren't even held accountable for getting your facts straight, and you are free to present arguments that are untethered by logic and common sense. Be grateful for how good you have it, and think about what you could do to extend your blessings of freedom and prosperity to all of those would-be columnists who are silenced by tyranny in, say, the Arab world. You could start, for example, by dropping your misguided opposition to the liberation of Iraq.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:29 PM
April 04, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 4

German Public Opinion Watch: Die Zeit reports that German opposition to the war in Iraq is hardening. 80% of the public surveyed now feels that the war is unjustified. This sentiment is also reflected in the approval ratings for leading politicians. Chancellor Schroeder's approval has risen to 34%, up from 26% a month ago. CDU opposition leader Angela Merkel, who has taken a strongly pro-American stance, has slid from 51% approval a month ago to 31% today. On the other hand, if an election were held today, the CDU/CSU Union would still oust the incumbent Social Democrats 45% to 31%.

Last night on NPR: Anchor Michelle Norris spoke with John Burnett, embedded with the Marines 20 miles south of Baghdad [audio file]:

Norris (skeptically): "We're seeing a lot of pictures back here in the United States of civilians cheering U.S. troops. Have you been seeing any of that?"

Burnett (pleasantly surprised): "Interestingly I have. And it's just in the past two days that everyone, all the Marines have noticed that suddenly the civilians are friendly again. They're waving. They're shooting V for victory and even making kind of pistol-like gestures to their heads and pointing north. Like, you know, put a bullet in Saddam's temple. The artillery battery that I'm traveling with was in a field this afternoon and a carload of Iraqi men drove by and yelled out "Thank you!" in unison.

Go figure.

It turns out that Alberta is at the leading edge of a Canadian shift towards supporting the United States and the liberation of Iraq. Here's an alternative theory you might not find anywhere else: Our war against "Saddam" is really just an oil grab, right? And the Canadians are notorious appeasers, right? And Alberta is where most of Canada's oil is, right? So .... maybe they're just trying to appease us so that we leave their oil alone? Well, probably not. But it has a certain logic to it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:34 PM
April 03, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 3

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting the story of Marine deserter Stephen Funk as "Marine obeys his conscience". Conscience? I don't think so. Funk, a 19-year-old reservist, showed up at his San Jose base Tuesday, holding his mother's hand, to file a request to leave the Marine Corps as a "conscientious objector". In fact, Funk reveals himself to be either a great fool or a great liar, as he claimed that the military recruiter tricked him into signing up:

"They don't really advertise that they kill people," Funk said. "I didn't really realize the full implications of what I was doing and what it really meant to be in the service as a reservist."
Yes, the benefits of living in a society that places warning labels on cigarette packets, wine bottles and parking garages. Where people grow up believing that the only risks in life are the ones that are disclosed on little labels. "Honest, officer, there was no warning label at the recruiting station to warn me that soldiers are occasionally asked to kill people! How was I supposed to know?". At least poor Stephen Funk figured this out before he was shipped out to liberate Iraq, and not, say, after he was given an order to defend his platoon from enemy fire.

Elsewhere on the pages of Wednesday's San Francisco Chronicle, one finds the weekly psychedelic rant of Robert Scheer. Scheer feels that the word "terror" is just an excuse for the US to commit savagery against Iraqi civilians, and that accidental deaths in wartime is no different from what is properly called terrorism:

The "terrorist" is generally considered such because he is indifferent to the fate of civilians.
No, Bob, terrorists are not indifferent to the fate of civilians, their sole and deliberate objective is to kill as many civilians as they can. The US and British forces, on the other hand, try to minimize civilian casualties even as they target installations of the regime. How disappointing that Scheer doesn't recognize the difference.

Fifth Column Watch: The New York Daily News reports on textbooks used in New York City's Islamic schools, Sowing seeds of hatred:

The books, obtained during a three-month Daily News investigation that included visits to private Muslim schools, are rife with inaccuracies, sweeping condemnations of Jews and Christians, and triumphalist declarations of Islam's supremacy. In Long Island City, Queens, for example, fifth- and sixth-graders at the Ideal Islamic School on 12th St. learn that Allah has revealed that "the Jews killed their own prophets and disobeyed Allah."
Some of the books were published with the financial support of a Saudi Arabian foundation. Read the whole thing.

Arab Media Watch: A reader writes:

I am currently sitting in Kuwait right now reading the english-language Arab Times. Last year at this time, I was also here during the Israeli incursions in the west back. At that time, the Arab Times was reporting on 500 dead in Jenin, Israeli soldiers throwing babies into the streets and raping their mothers, heroic suicide bombers, etc. There were also demonstrations in certain sections of Kuwait city against the war by ex-pat Egyptians. Now, I was somewhat surprised at the tone of the reporting in the paper of the Iraq war.

Today's edition has an opinion written by Ahmed Al-Jarallah, the editor in chief stating there are no compliments for criminals like Saddam Hussein. Another writer, Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli, former oil minister, states that the coverage of the war by Arab media is making all the middle east the laughing stock of nations and drawing parallels between it and the reporting done during the six-day war
in 1967 when Arab stations were reporting that Arab armies were throwing Israel into the sea. They still have some articles talking about the human cost in Iraq, but all in all, the reporting is akin to Fox News Channel. Very balanced for what I had thought would have been like last year.

The Arab Times may be found online here. Contrary to the gloom and doom we keep hearing from some who predict that war in Iraq "will radicalize the region and create a thousand Bin Ladens", this article is refreshing:
Most Kuwaitis want to see the US-led coalition succeed in removing Saddam, but they also suspect his departure would bring to the fore divergences in their own country between powerful Islamists and Western-oriented liberals... Many Islamists fear a US victory against Iraq may boost liberal trends and jeopardise their traditional values ...

"If Kuwait wants to remain a modern, democratic country, we have no choice but to stay close to the Americans," said a senior government official who asked not to be named. "We will not allow them (Islamists) to set the clock back and tamper with our future."

Sounds good to me. More importantly, it sounds good to a lot of Kuwaitis.

Ze'ev Schiff says that the Iraqi Army's latest moves smack of desperation. The movement of northern divisions to defend Baghdad from the south should allow the coalition to take the Kirkuk oil fields. At the same time, the defenders south of Baghdad will either be destroyed, or retreat into the city. And the latter would be seen as a signal of defeat, damage morale and hasten the collapse of the regime.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:21 AM
April 02, 2003
Here and There, Apr. 2

Libya, recently elected chair of the UN Human Rights Commission, seems to believe that the concept of "human rights" does not encompass the right of Jews to have access to drinking water.

Saddam Hussein failed to show-up Tuesday at a scheduled TV appearance that was designed to prove that he's still alive. In order to prove once and for all that the rumors of Saddam's demise have been exaggerated, Iraqi TV issued another statement in Saddam's name that was read by an actor. Seriously. It's hard to believe that Saddam would allow such clumsy PR blunders if he were still in control. Are the surviving members of the ruling clique buying for time while they engage in a (hopefully bloody) succession struggle? Or is this a deliberate act of deception, feigning disarray and weakness before launching a brutal surprise? I suspect the former.

Large parts of Iran were , without electricity on Tuesday, plunging much of the nation into darkness. Which is a fitting metaphor for life under an Islamic theocracy. (Power was restored a few hours later).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:47 PM