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Monthly Archives: June 2007

It happened many weeks ago, but today is the first I’d heard of it. Striking, isn’t it, that I found it on a military blog? Blackfive is indispensable. The post from which the news comes addresses the immediate pounce from Iglesias, proclaiming the surge a failure because al Qaeda leaders ran from Baqubah. That conclusion also appears in the Washington Post and the New York Times. Blackfive insists, I think correctly, that leaders running away from a showdown with the infidel enemy is not winning strategy on their part; quite the contrary, in fact. Nothing is so dispiriting to an army as the sight of their “commanders” hightailing it out of town, shouting over their shoulders, “victory is certain, go get ‘em, mohammed!”

But the big news, perhaps even revolutionary news, in that post is this:

As soon as DefendAmerica.mil has the transcript up, I’ll have a conversation to post with MNF-I’s command chaplain, on the recent religious congress in Iraq, which united to condemn al Qaeda and extremist violence. It happened to finish up on the morning of the latest Samarra bombing.

The clerics were together to call Iraqi media, and get out in front in calling for their followers to avoid violence and revenge. Hear about that on the news? Well, you’ll hear it here.

Who put that conference together? The United States of America’s Department of Defense. Who asked for it? The Iraqi clerics themselves — they sought out our chaplains, respecting them as fellow holy men. DOD hasn’t learned anything about dealing with the local culture? They’ve learned enough to engage them, and put up the cash for a congress of this sort, complete with the security needed to get the leading religious figures together in Iraq

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This “religious congress” deserves our attention. Bigtime. From the very beginning of this war, smart people have insisted that there were many Iraqi clerics who hated the islamists, in no small part because the Iraqi version of Shi’ism–which is the traditional version, as opposed to the heretical vision imposed on Iran by Khomeini and his successors–rejected the notion that religious men should govern political society. It was deplorable that our political leaders in Iraq did so little to work with such imams, whether to discuss the best actions or to protect them from the jihadis. And it is one of the many fascinating ironies of this war that, in this crucial phase, Iraqi clerics came to our religious men in uniform to hold a powwow, to denounce al Qaeda (which is now a brand name for the terrorists, rather than a specific group of killers). And they did it in the name of their faith.

For those who like to look at these events in a broader context, please notice that the traditional Shi’ite doctrine has some similarities with our insistence on separation of church and state, and that the war against the terror masters in Iran has some similarities with the Western wars against European religious absolutism. One of the great blessings of America is that most of the colonists, and most all of the founders, insisted that religion had to be a free choice. Indeed, Tocqueville rightly said that separation of church and state made American religion the most genuine and most successful of any religion in the West, and he called on his European confreres to take it to heart.

There are Muslims who share that conviction, including at least some with famous names. A couple of years ago, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini came to Washington and openly stated that Shi’ism required freedom of religion, as well as freedom of non-religion, precisely because a truly religious person had to freely choose to be religious, and it was entirely understandable that a person might freely choose to be non-religious, even anti-religious.

The “religious congress” in Iraq strikes me as enormously important. I can’t wait to read the transcript, I urge everyone to watch for it and ponder its significance. I hope that the hunting pack that is so eager to declare the war lost and the surge failed will do likewise.

Africa, Mon Amour

June 23rd, 2007 - 6:55 pm

I’ll be going to Africa in a month (I think), which always gets me excited. There is nothing I know of that compares with the thrill of being in the bush amidst the African wildlife, and I have so many friends now in central and southern Africa that it is really a third home for me (second home is Italy). So many wonderful people, living in such awful misery, in such a fabulous landscape.

The “civilized world” doesn’t give a hoot for Africa or Africans. Every now and then there is an emotional embrace for some worthy cause or other, such as Darfur, but for the most part those campaigns are conducted by the feel-gooders, who shy away from the simple, straightforward methods that will actually work. Darfur can be saved quite simply, by destroying the helicopters and small fixed-wing planes used by the northerners for their attacks.

And then there’s Zimbabwe, the most obvious candidate for regime change I think I’ve ever seen. A crazed dictator openly destroying his country and his people, but nobody gives a damn. The South Africans haven’t assumed the leadership role that history and geography dealt to them, another bitter inheritance from the failed presidency of St Nelson Mandela. His heir, Thabo Mbeke, has been utterly pathetic as a “statesman.”

And so the Zimbabweans are running away. What else can they do? Lots of them go south, causing Mbeke to fret. Instapundit puts it perfectly:

…the Mbeki government deserves these problems for its shameful complicity in Mugabe’s disastrous dictatorship. South Africa could have done good here, but chose a see-no-evil approach. Now the problems are crossing its border.

Which is only just.

Repression in Iran

June 23rd, 2007 - 2:14 pm

Pigs fly and al-AP publishes a good story on the recent clampdown on dissent in Iran. It’s written by one Michael Weissenstein. He contrasts Ahmadi-Nezhad’s promises of “total freedom” with the mass arrests of student demonstrators and women whose criminal activity consists of soliciting signatures on a petition that calls for women’s constitutional rights to be enforced. And then he quotes the regime’s apologists:

Restrictions in Iran are far from absolute. Iranians criticize the government in public, and ignore a wide array of social regulations at home.

Defenders of the system point out that is more open than many nations in the region, including some of America’s allies. And some restrictions have loosened in recent months: two reformist newspapers have been allowed to publish again.

All of which is true. But he could have pointed out that this is the way a regime behaves when it knows that most of its subjects hate it. So the mullahs walk a narrow path, trying to use enough terror to deter the big acts of protest that will bring it down, and grant a small quantum of freedom to trick the gullible and also identify their most dangerous enemies.

Bing and Owen West, two generations of marines, wrote a terrific oped for the NY Times. It neatly describes the lack of seriousness in our government by noting the mantra that we can’t win the war without political compromise. Hence, our failure to get a grip on the identities of our enemies. Without a reliable census and ID’s for Iraqis, our enemies have a free run at us.

It reminds me of one my own favorite definitions of peace. Wars end when one side wins and the other loses. The winner imposes terms on the loser, and those terms are called “peace.”

But the Bush Administration constantly acts as if it’s possible to escape this basic truth. Which is why we are all so frustrated.

Reconciliation or Contempt?

June 15th, 2007 - 9:48 am

From today’s Washington Post, we learn that Hamas is binding up the wounds of their enemies:

Victorious Hamas gunmen rounded up senior military leaders of the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip early Friday, then announced a general amnesty in a sign the Islamic movement is seeking to reconcile with its secular rivals after five days of fierce fighting.

I remember when Qadaffi called up one of his enemies, Sadat I think, to warn him of an assassination plot. The essence of that gesture was not a peace offering, but the opposite. It said “I hold you in such contempt that I even spare your life.”

In like manner, Hamas’ amnesty for Fatah leaders expresses contempt. It says “I hold the power of life and death over you, you miserable worm. For the moment I choose to spare you, but I can reverse that decision if you misbehave, son of a monkey…”

It is NOT reconciliation. It’s slavery, and that’s what we can expect if we lose this war.

Reagan and Iran

June 11th, 2007 - 9:31 pm

A lot of people think that Reagan would be a lot tougher on Iran than Bush has been, but I think that’s mostly wish-fulfillment. When he actually had to deal with Iran, Reagan made just about every mistake in the book. If you are interested in the subject, have a look at a terrific new article in MERIA Journal by a person I don’t know at all, an Israeli named Nathan Thrall.

He refers to an event that I don’t believe I ever noticed: the crash of a plane in Canada, carrying 250 American military personnel coming back from a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai. Thrall suggests there is reason to suspect an Iranian terror operation. After all, Islamic Jihad, an Iranian creation, took credit for it…

Gag of the Day From the Clowns at the UN

June 9th, 2007 - 11:43 pm

Iran’s health care system has been praised by the United Nations. No, it’s serious, not satire. Have a look:

Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Hossein Malek Afzali received this year’s award presented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). A special ten-nation committee selected him for outstanding work in population issues, health and welfare, IRIB reported. The committee, chaired by Sweden’s Ambassador Anders Liden, chose Afzali from among 29 nominees…

Dr. Asha Rose Migros, a deputy secretary general of the world body said in the award-giving ceremony that Iran can be considered a model country in efficient healthcare. “Iran’s programs in the population sector can be a model for other nations.“

Iran’s former health minister, Dr. Alireza Marandi, won the same award in 1999.

I love that bit about Iran’s programs are a model for the world, don’t you? Iran’s health services industry is universally described as undergoing a massive crisis. Doctor’s salaries are risible, many patients can’t pay, and new M.D.’s are emigrating as fast as they can get a visa.

But, like clockwork, an Iranian was scheduled to get this award–it apparently happens every eight years, regardless of events. Dr. Alireza Marandi won it back in 1999, the year famous for student massacres.

Back now. I was in New York without a computer, mostly correcting galleys for the new Iran book which comes out in Sept.

They’re Shi’ites, the JFK Terrorists

June 5th, 2007 - 8:49 am

Steve Schwartz digs into the story, and finds an Iranian connection:

The four men named in the case…are products of Muslim minorities in the Caribbean – one lived in Trinidad, an island off the coast of Venezuela that was the alleged center for their planning; three are from Guyana, on the mainland nearby…

Early media reports have concentrated on the links of JFK suspects Abdul Kadir and Kareem Ibrahim with Jamaat al-Muslimeen – an eccentric Sunni cult that launched a bloody 1990 attempt to overthrow Trinidad’s government.

But Kadir, 55, and Ibrahim, 56, are Shia Muslims – and thus members of a tiny minority within a minority. (Muslims in Guyana and Trinidad are overwhelmingly Sunnis, with ethnic backgrounds in India and east Africa.) This is apparently the first case of Shia Muslims plotting a U.S. terror attack.

When he was arrested in Trinidad last Friday, Kadir was boarding a plane for Venezuela, en route to a religious conference in Iran. Ibrahim is also a Shia cleric, serving as imam in a Trinidad mosque.

Born Michael Seaforth, Kadir became Muslim in the early ’70s. He went to Iran for intensive study in theology and returned as a cleric. (He later sent his son Salim and daughter Sauda to the Iranian religious center of Qom for theological training.) But he also developed political interests, having won election to Guyana’s parliament as a member of the leftist People’s National Congress/Reform, and has a background as a theorist of the party’s socialist ideology.

It’s a global terrorist network, and we can be quite sure that there are lots of them in this country. As always, “the mosque” is central. Not all mosques are pro-terrorist, but virtually all terrorists were recruited via a mosque.

Lebanon, Mullah Style

June 3rd, 2007 - 7:06 pm

Agence France Presse gives us the latest intel from Beirut, via the Lebanese press:

A BEIRUT newspaper has reported that Fatah al-Islam, whose fighters are under siege at a refugee camp in the north of the country, had planned a September 11-style attack on Lebanon.
“This information was obtained by questioning arrested Fatah al-Islam members,” An-Nahar said, without identifying its sources.

The paper also said that explosives seized in the country’s second largest city Tripoli, south of the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp where militants were being besieged by the army for the 15th day, came from Syria.

“Fatah al-Islam planned to attack a large hotel in the capital using four suicide truck bombs at the same time as launching suicide attacks on embassies in east and west Beirut,” the paper said.

An-Nahar also said the Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist group “planned to launch attacks on the Shekka tunnel linking Beirut to Tripoli with the aim of cutting off the north and proclaiming an Islamic state there.”

That order of battle is right out of the Hizbollah play book: big explosions, simultaneous attacks, suicide terrorists…and then the “Islamic state.” Sounds like it was written in Tehran, doesn’t it? Or Damascus, which is now a suburb of Tehran.