Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Blogging suspended

I'm off on holiday, so nothing before 4 Sept. Following week also likely to be light.

Shame I haven't got time to say more about this: Lisa Ramaci-Vincent responding to Juan Cole (via DSTfW).

Update (8 Sep): oh sod it, I know this is ancient history now in web terms, but I'm going to go back to this post "It's called courage". First, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent:
And yes, he was planning to to convert to Islam and marry Nour, but only to take her out of the country to England, where she had a standing job offer, set her up with the friends she had over there, divorce her, and come back to New York. He had gotten her family's permission to do so (thereby debunking the "honor killing" theory), but more importantly, he had gotten mine. [...] I have made inquiries to the State Department about the possibility of my sponsoring her in America. Do you perhaps labor under the misapprehension I am such a spineless cuckold that I would put myself out thusly for the woman you believe my husband was traducing me with?
On the other hand, she is unwise to ask questions like 'How often have you been to the Middle East, Mr. Cole? [...] How much Arabic do you speak, Mr. Cole? Steven had been learning Arabic for the last two years[...]'  In spite of his 'attitude', Cole is a useful source of translations from the Arabic media and an expert on some aspects of Iran (about which he does not seem to write much in his weblog). 

In the comments, nick (at August 23, 2005 06:57 AM) tries to defend Cole by saying he is only relaying a report from 'Britain's Conservative Telegraph newspaper'.  Cole, however, goes much further than the Telegraph, as pointed out by Sgt_Meengs_USMC (August 23, 2005 12:13 PM).

Then Lisa herself comes back at August 23, 2005 10:27 PM, conceding the point that Cole's qualifications perhaps exceed beginner's Arabic etc., but points out 'As for defending himself to me, to date the pusillimous professor has not had the guts to take keyboard in hand and respond to my email, which I sent to him personally. Had he 1/100th the courage my husband had, perhaps he would, but I have no plans to hold my breath. Blue is not my color.'

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Dead Socialists

First, Julius Nyerere. This is also a case of dead socialism (Prospect, July 2005,  Return to Tanzania by Jonathan Power).
Nyerere had steered the country into an economic hole, as he himself recognised before his death in 1999.
When I asked [the current president, Benjamin Mkapa] why he abandoned Nyerere's legacy to create a rather successful, if still budding, capitalist economy, he gave two reasons. First, he had watched Deng Xiaoping unleash capitalism in China and saw the country climb from rags to comparative riches. Second, it was the end of the cold war and the western aid donors, in particular the Americans, the British and even the Scandinavians, were no longer interested in propping up a declining country just because it was pro-western.
On becoming Tanzania's leader, Nyerere called on Mao Zedong. Mao told him: "I give you one piece of advice: don't create a middle class." And Nyerere never did.
Of Nyerere's well-meaning but autocratic Christian socialism there is hardly a sign left.
There's much more.

Second, Jimmy Weinstein, who died in June.
Jimmy's most lasting contributions were two books he wrote in the early '60s, after leaving the party. Most historians at the time believed that Debs's Socialist Party had been fatally co-opted in 1912 by the rise of progressivism. But, in The Decline of Socialism in America, Jimmy showed that the party had actually grown steadily afterward--only being undone by the rise of the American Communist Party. ('Socialist Evolution', Subscribers Only)

a columnist

Via Harry, Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times :
When you read the anti-war blogs or a New York Times columnist, you get the sense it actually wants Iraq to fall apart, or Al-Qaeda to regroup, or another terrorist atrocity to succeed.
I suppose this could mean one particular NYT columnist (but then why not say which one?) It seems to me to mean closer to any NYT columnist. Which seems a bit unfair. It's not as if it's The Guardian or something.

Update: from Prospect, July 2005, Washington watch:
Life can get rough in the American think tank world, particularly for British scholars who don't know their place. The Times's best-ever Russian correspondent Anatol Lieven [..] has departed from the Carnegie Endowment in unhappy circumstances. His powerful new book on American nationalism (America Right or Wrong) inspired a waspish New York Times piece hinting that he was both anti-American and antisemitic. That's the neocon way of giving you both barrels. It was very unfair, and very lethal in modern Washington, potentially threatening the fund-raising streams on which think tanks depend.

Comments here (on 'Warlords' and the Warsaw uprising).

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Gerry Adams interviewed in The New York Times last Sunday.
[Q] In addition to your political activities, you are also a writer of fiction, and I am wondering if you have any special insight into the work of your fellow Irishman James Joyce.

[A] I have never completed his ''Ulysses.'' And I've never met anyone who has, although I've met people who say that they have.
Surely he doesn't want us to think he's that stupid. Or perhaps he does.
The problem is that Tony Blair entered the war in Iraq without the support of people in Britain. The war has been a huge disaster. We need to return sovereignty to the people of Iraq. There is no point in me arguing for Irish freedom and self-governance if I don't have an internationalist position which argues for exactly the same things everywhere

Friday, August 19, 2005

Anwar Ibrahim

I'd been meaning to write about this before and a recent news story gives me the excuse.
Breakfast with the FT's Victor Mallet (subscribers only ---- link )
To hear some middle-class Malaysians talk about Anwar Ibrahim, you would think he was the devil made flesh, guilty of crimes against decent society ranging from gross financial corruption and sexual deviancy to Islamic fanaticism. Such is the effect of seven relentless years of government-inspired calumny.
Wan Azizah [Anwar's wife ..] reminds us that the spying suggestions, never followed up in court, were inexplicably illustrated by genuine television pictures of Anwar receiving a 19-gun salute at the Pentagon in Washington, as though such public accolades were normal for secret agents.
Then, the Guardian's Simon Tisdall with "Long fight back for Malaysia's invisible Man"
"But how do you have moderation and democracy when there are no basic rights? This is a very repressive system but repressive mostly without violence. It is civilised repression. It was learned from the British."
Anyway, read both articles. The conclusions: 'Somehow, I think Malaysian politics has not heard the last of him' (Mallet); 'given a level playing field, Anwar can still hope to lead his country one day.' (Tisdall)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Not cowards

Greg Djerejian has made a number of posts recently on Iraq. Here he highlights and extracts from an analysis in the Washington Post by Fred Kagan of the AEI. It's also worth reading the questions and answers which followed.
[Q] Can we look to Vietnam for any lessons on the withdrawal?

[A] Only if we want to lose.
[Q] To what extent is the problem logistical (lack of money, recruits, infrastructure), or psychological (Iraqi troops aren't very nationalistic, and some are cowardly.)

[A] The problem is overwhelmingly logistical and very little psychological. Even to stand in line at a recruiting station in Iraq is a dangerous activity, since the insurgents have been attacking those stations with suicide bombs. Anyone who stands there has already demonstrated his courage.


I was listening to the news on BBC Radio4 (6 PM) about the bombings in Baghdad bus station. The attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, we were told. The bulletin then segued effortlessly into some legal attempts to get [another] inquiry into Britain's reasons for going to war.

Some time later (on C4 News) I found out just what 'sophisticated' means: the third bomb, apparently, was timed to impact the emergency services (ambulances and so on) arriving in response to the first two bombs.
Oskar Lafontaine called yesterday for German troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan. The far-left grouping, generally known as Die Linke,  of which he is a prominent figure, has around 12% support according to polls.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Global warming conspiracy

Pretty old, I know, but I like this. Opening paragraphs:
Thanks to greedy environmentalists and corrupt scientists, the world is in the grip of a dangerous mass delusion that driving cars and using electricity is causing global warming. Unless these mendacious “experts” are stopped, the leaders of some of the globe’s biggest economies will pour trillions of dollars into useless schemes that exist merely to feed the enviro-industrial complex. Only a few (American) voices speaking out against a dangerous (European) orthodoxy can save us from global chaos.

If this sounds like the plot of a thriller, it’s because it is: in Michael Crichton’s latest bestseller, State of Fear, environmental groups grow so fat on middle-class guilt over pollution and the destruction of small furry things that they fasten on the alarmist theory of global warming, or climate change, as a means of screwing even more money from gullible donors.
Some more:
The sceptics also claim - sometimes justifiably - that there are inaccuracies in some of the computer models. But when these inaccuracies are corrected, or overtaken by another study, the sceptics keep talking about the old model. And if that doesn’t work, there is always a conspiracy theory to fall back on.
"The heat is on" by Fiona Harvey, FT Magazine, 2 Jul  (subscribers only). Some hostile responses here and  here.  To go back to the article:
[Crichton] e-mailed: “(Sigh) Remember Y2K? Went on for years. One news report, one group after another weighing in on the coming perils. With what result? The ultimate human cost was not trivial: people sold houses, pulled out of the financial markets, moved to higher ground. And all for... nothing at all. Now, when nothing occurred in 2000, the explanation was that thanks to the foresight and extended effort of all the organisations behind the panic in the first place, the desperate situation was averted. And so it will be with GW [global warming].”
Surely the point of the sceptics position, though, is to stop efforts to avert the disaster.

Democracy and faith

Norm's An incipient democracy says 'Two pieces today reflect the democratic process at work in Iraq over the new constitution. One is by Amir Taheri...'   Amir Taheri puts out some fairly dodgy opinions - as here :
The kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] finds itself the odd man out between the cautiously reforming countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and the Persian Gulf mini-states on the one hand, and the traditional despotic regimes such as Libya, Sudan, Syria and Iran on the other.
Is Egypt, say, progressing more closely to democracy than Iran? This, though, is good:
faith is about certainty while democracy is about doubt.
Worth reading is the Carnegie report, Iraq’s Constitutional Process Plunges Ahead by Nathan J. Brown. It is possible to pick out all the negative points, as was done wherever I got the link from (Eric Martin, I think). The report however is more nuanced.   In the light of the criticism of  'the rushed process',  the committee drafting the constitution is surely right now to give itself another week.  A couple more points:
There are some signs that the advocates of a more Islamic legal system have focused elsewhere on the text as well, working to insert provisions that would force some rights to work within the bounds of Islamic law and hint (although probably not require) return to the pre-1959 system for personal status law (governing marriage, divorce, and inheritance). Under that system, members of different communities followed their own law and courts; since 1959 there has been a single set of courts that have operated in accordance with parliamentary legislation. In addition, initial indications are that the TAL’s relatively robust provisions for religious freedom will be adopted with little modification.
To be fair, there is much in the constitutional process that could have gone badly wrong but has not. This is particularly the case with the Shiite population—the Sadrist movement has not attempted to disrupt constitution drafting, nor has Shiite leadership precipitated a crisis by attempting to modify the ratification process to its advantage (as it had earlier hinted that it might do). After many delays, a considerable number of Sunnis have been brought into the committee. In these ways, the constitutional process has not itself become a deep problem. But neither has it become the solution to Iraq’s problems.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Local News

Quite old news, really.  The BBC programme about "Darley Oaks Farm" (25 July) showed an older woman among the protesters near the farm saying, 'If I was younger, I would be involved in "direct action" '. I heard in a local pub (the one whose landlord the brewery forced out after threats from the terrorists) that she was the mother of the woman killed protesting outside Coventry airport about ten years ago. The link is confirmed here

Poland and Belarus (Sunday). There was a bit in the FT (30 Jul) about Poland's pressure on the authoritarian regime in Belarus, which is pushing around its Polish minority. Chrenkoff  had more here, with translations from Polish. Now, Lech Walesa has said he would support a people's revolution there, but has warned them not to expect any help from the West.

I am reading Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies. After the Soviet agreement to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1988, Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan's dictator, was killed in a plane crash. Of this and the massive explosion of an arms stockpile in Rawalpindi, Clarke writes 'I  could never find the evidence to prove  that Soviet KGB had ordered these two acts as payback for their bitter defeat, but  in my bones I knew they had.' (P50)

Robert Baer ('The Cult of the Suicide Bomber', C4, 4 Aug) highlighted the fact that for the 1983 bombing of the US Marine  barracks in Lebanon there was no claim of responsibility. The conclusion was that a state was behind it and wanted to avoid being identified. That state was, of course, probably Iran,   

al Qaeda Oz ?

(Friday) Earlier comments  here. Now, 'Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has warned that "a small number" of Australians have joined al-Qaeda. [...] Australian papers have identified the man[...] as former soldier Matthew Stewart. [...] A statement issued by the family denied the man in the video was Matthew Stewart, who left the Australian army in 2001 after serving in East Timor'.

John McCririck, racing commentator for Channel 4, criticized Tony Blair for not attending the Robin Cook's funeral. Strangely, he did not agree with  Cook's views on Iraq (interview on C4 News with him just off the train from Edinburgh).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Sign of the Times?

Jonathan Miller, in a report on Channel 4 News last night (10 Aug) about Iraqi terrorist propaganda, points out that their videos carefully omit the civilians, including children, killed by their bombs. Maybe things are changing following the bombings and attempted bombings in London in July. Link: Al Qaeda's other victims....

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Socialism and Islam

The comments at the Harry's Place thread seem to have disappeared. This is what I wrote:
the MAB/Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to santise its politics unchallenged, and is given "Comment" pieces in the Guardian: a privilege which would not be accorded to other parties of the far right. Posted by: David T at August 8, 2005 10:34 AM
You need to look left, as well as right. '[Dilpazier] Aslam had not shown the talents of a Paul Foot, but his beliefs were no more totalitarian: less, probably.' Extreme anxiety, John Lloyd writing in the FT Mag.

In another post, David T says he does agree with the government banning Hizb'ut Tahrir.
More links
Caffeine notes  ---  Teoma   ---  Guy --- Tim Worstall   -- Will -

More --- David McDuff  ---

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Not giving in

People are right, I believe, to continue travelling on the Underground and to reject calls to 'change our foreign policy' following the attacks and attempted attacks in London. In the same way, British Muslim women have rejected suggestions that they not wear the hijab or headscarf if it makes them feel less vulnerable, since this would be to give in to threats of violence. Right on.

Update (8 Aug): Comments at Hizb-ut-Tahrir smoothies. Lmsi have added the following recently, though it was written in December 2004:  «L’Arabe est fourbe», par Laurent Lévy - Brèves réflexions sur les accusations de « double langage » de Tariq Ramadan.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Steven Vincent

American Journalist Shot to Death in Basra-- This is his Blog. This is what he wrote in the NYT a few days ago.
An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of "death car": a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.

Update:  Blogpulse allows you to see the weblog entries that were 'seeded' by the reports in the NY Times - for example, this query. Most reaction is fairly predictable - from 'Islamofascist killers strike again' to 'Iraq in chaos, we told you so.' I would single out the guest posts that Steven made at 'the adventures of chester'.

Update (8 Aug): from Steven's weblog in February, FEMINAZIS:
Today, my Iraqi female friends tell me that when it comes to safety and general freedom of activity, their lives are much more circumscribed than before the fall of Saddam.  And a large portion of the fault for this debacle has to go to the United States of America.

My credentials as an advocate for the liberation and reconstruction of Iraq hardly need establishing.  But I believe, as I wrote in In the Red Zone, that supporting the war does not mean ignoring or sugar-coating problems the conflict has inflicted on the Iraqi people.  The plight of women is one of those problems.  Not only has the end of Saddam made the day-to-day lives of Arab (as opposed to Kurdish) women more difficult, the rise of the Shia religious establishment promises to make their existence even more onerous through shari'a law.  [...]

Despite the manifold evils of their regime, the Baathists brought economic and social advancement for women.  After seizing power in 1968, the Nazi-inspired party declared its commitment to equal rights.
Today in nearly every category (except, interestingly, the number of seats in parliament), the condition of women has deteriorated.   This is particularly true in literacy, health and crime rates.  To be fair, this problem began years before the U.S. invasion:  in the 1980s, as Saddam began to lose the Iran-Iraq war, he turned to support from his country's tribal sheiks, re-introducing patriarchal social customs the Baathists had tried to suppress.  Worse, as his regime begun to crumble in the mid-1990s, the tyrant attempted to garner support from the Shia by allowing shari'a regulations regarding women and family life to permeate, and in some cases, supplant Iraqi laws. 

Again, I am no apologist for the Saddam years.  And to be sure, many Iraqi women prefer the chaos of today to the "stability" of the past.  "What kind of freedom did we have under Saddam?  The freedom of the grave," Baghdad feminist Hanaa Edwar told me. 

Still, we must be honest here.  By destroying Baathist authority and letting the Shia genie out of the bottle, the U.S. has exacerbated social tendencies and conditions that impact women's lives for the worse.  This is the cost--or perhaps the birth pangs--of democracy, one might say, and I believe the Iraqi people will bear them, as they have so many other disappointments, setbacks and torments.  But for right-wing pundits to declare victory and ignore what this new Iraqi society means for females, seems shallow and morally questionable


So that's where that name comes from.

He hosed me with vulgar abuse, saying I was a terminal alcoholic, a 'Trotskyist popinjay'.

Christopher Hitchens on George Galloway at the senate hearing. From hokuula at yabass. Thanks to Will at dstpfw for his link to this weblog.

I've just noticed in their sidebar - Why we are called what we are. I liked Hitchens'  'some of which was unfair.'


Comments at 'Touched by Bloodless Abstraction'. can take a while to appear. Here is my latest:
Matt, I had about given up my last comment being allowed through, let alone you replying. I don't agree with everything at Harry's: like you, I don't go along with the obsessive secularism. And you may have noticed I did have a 'word' of my own after all on John Berger (He seems to have just one phrase worth mentioning in his pieces these days: for another example, if you can bear to go into that place again, see the link at the end and my comments at the end.) 

But the examples from Orwell's CEJL seemed particularly apposite. Far from being sentimental nostalgia for a time of moral certainty, it is a reminder of the wrong choices that many of the Left intelligentsia made at that time, choices that could have been disastrously wrong if they had had more influence.

I have not dwelt on equivalencies, moral or otherwise, between Hitler and bin Laden, though I do think the points about appeasement are relevant today.

Your remark about 'being a parrot for Newt Gingrich' is unworthy: I don't know what basis you have for saying this.

 ---  up_and_under_from_down_under ---
  Actually, it's appeared straightaway this time. 


Comments here too (on Khanabad). HP's Monitoring Bush: doing the right thing on Uzbekistan has comments from Craig Murray himself. Another interesting site -  Mcb watch, from the list of signatories at UAT.

Monday, August 01, 2005

More on 'Saturday'

Nick Cohen, in the essay mentioned, goes on to remark:

I need to be careful before theorising, because television editors tell me that every vaguely political script they are offered these days presents new Labour as a bunch of lying mass murderers. But when it comes to the novel, my guess is that the true hatred will come from the young, and that writers over 40 will go on pulling their punches...

There is an echo of this in the novel itself. Henry Perowne in about 5 pages of argument about Iraq with his daughter Daisy .
She says: 'Why is it that the few people I've met who aren't against this crappy war are all over forty?'
He says: 'What do you think the Bali bombing was about? The clubbers clubbed.'

Towards the end, Henry imagines a middle-aged doctor like himself, in February 1903, a product of prosperity and decades of peace, unable to envisage the horrors ahead. And now, 'totalitarians in different form, still scattered and weak, but growing, and angry, and thirsty for another mass killing.'